Friday Winners: Coinstar Takes a Bite into Short Sellers

The whole DVD rental business has befuddled short-sellers. For several years, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) disproved its detractors, and its shares have steadily climbed, forcing short-sellers to eat big losses. The same appears to be happening for Netflix’s rival Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR), which rents DVDs in supermarkets alongside its ubiquitous coin-counting machines. (See our January profile on Coinstar by clicking here.) Coinstar just delivered another strong quarter, forcing some short-sellers to spit the bit as they saw their negative bet lose nearly -20% in value this morning.

Short-sellers are likely correct. Consumers will eventually download all movies from their home computer, making DVD-kiosks obsolete. But they have continually under-estimated how quickly that transition would take place. Nevertheless, one day, that bearish thesis will prove correct, and even though Coinstar may still have some more strong quarters to come, the company will eventually hit a wall. To the extent that shares keep powering higher as currently short investors need to buy stock to cover their positions, the stock could be set up for a more appealing entry point for fresh short positions.


Earlier this week, we saw robust results from Integrated Silicon Solution (Nasdaq: ISSI), underscoring the notion that chip stocks were poised for a robust fresh cycle. Applied Micro (Nasdaq: AMCC) is in complete agreement. The maker of chips that help direct traffic among computers just delivered solid first-quarter results, and sees business getting even better in the quarters to come. That helped push shares up more than +12% this morning.

But with shares now up more than 40% this year, compared to a +9% gain in the broader Philadelphia Semiconductor stock index, shares may not have much further upside. A clear divergence has emerged among these chip stocks. Specialized manufacturers of chips are seeing their shares bid up nicely on the heels of solid quarterly results. But the vendors of expensive chip-making machinery such as Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) are not getting the same affection. But if history is any guide, whenever the chip makers start to generate more cash, they start to spend more on chip-making equipment. Applied Materials may indeed be the better play in this group, as its shares are relative laggards.


Biotech firm Dendreon (Nasdaq: DNDN) continues its remarkable ascent, up another +8% this morning to an all-time high of around $55. Less than 15 months ago, this was a $3 stock, which is why people love to bet on biotechs. Where else can you hope for that kind of return? Of course for every Dendreon, there are a dozen disappointments.

As a purely speculative suggestion, there has some chatter about a pair of other promising names that could post Dendreon-like returns. One is Star Scientific (Nasdaq: CIGX), which is targeting the tobacco-withdrawl market and may also have a useful remedy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cyclacel Pharma (NASDAQ: CYCC) is another intriguing name. The company has a range of drugs that target various forms of cancer.

These aren’t stock recommendations. Just ideas for further research.