Biggest Short Squeezes in History: Key Examples

BY TIO Staff

|June 7, 2024

The phenomenon of short squeezes has played a pivotal role in the financial markets, creating scenarios where the price of a stock or asset skyrockets, often leading to unprecedented market movements. This article delves into some of the most significant short squeezes in history, providing a clear and concise exploration of each event's dynamics and implications.

Understanding Short Squeezes

Before diving into the examples, it's crucial to understand what a short squeeze entails. A short squeeze occurs when a stock or other asset jumps sharply higher, forcing traders who had bet that its price would fall, to buy it in order to forestall even greater losses. This buying pressure adds to the upward movement of the stock's price, potentially leading to dramatic increases.

Key Components of a Short Squeeze

A short squeeze is typically characterized by two main components: a high level of short interest in a stock and a trigger that causes the stock's price to begin rising. The combination of these factors can create a feedback loop, where the rising price forces more short sellers to cover their positions, driving the price up even further.

Short interest refers to the total number of shares that have been sold short but have not yet been covered or closed out. A trigger can be any event or piece of news that positively impacts the stock's price, such as an unexpected earnings beat, a new product announcement, or a change in industry regulations.

Risks Involved in Short Selling

Short selling involves borrowing shares of a stock and selling them with the hope of buying them back later at a lower price. While it can be profitable, short selling comes with significant risks, primarily because losses can be theoretically infinite. If the stock's price continues to rise, short sellers may be forced to buy back the shares at much higher prices, leading to substantial losses.

Historic Short Squeezes

The history of financial markets is dotted with short squeezes that have left a lasting impact. These events not only reshaped the fortunes of companies and investors but also offered valuable lessons on the risks and dynamics of short selling.

Volkswagen (2008)

One of the most dramatic short squeezes occurred with Volkswagen in 2008, when the company briefly became the world's most valuable by market capitalization. A series of events, including Porsche's unexpected announcement that it had increased its stake in Volkswagen, led to a panic among short sellers. The scramble to cover positions caused Volkswagen's stock price to skyrocket, inflicting huge losses on those betting against the company.

This event highlighted the potential for extreme market movements and the dangers of heavily shorted stocks. It also underscored the importance of transparency and communication from companies to their shareholders and the market.

GameStop (2021)

The GameStop short squeeze of 2021 became a cultural phenomenon, capturing the attention of the world beyond the financial markets. Fueled by a coordinated effort by retail investors on social media platforms to drive up the stock's price, GameStop's shares soared, squeezing institutional short sellers and resulting in significant market volatility.

This event demonstrated the growing influence of retail investors and the power of social media in shaping market dynamics. It also sparked discussions about market manipulation, the role of hedge funds, and the need for regulatory scrutiny.

Implications of Short Squeezes

Short squeezes, while fascinating, carry important implications for traders, investors, and the broader market. They serve as a reminder of the inherent risks in short selling and the unpredictable nature of financial markets.

For Traders and Investors

For those involved in trading and investing, short squeezes underscore the importance of risk management and the need for a well-thought-out investment strategy. They highlight the potential for rapid and significant losses, particularly for those engaged in short selling without adequate protective measures.

For the Market

On a broader scale, short squeezes can affect market stability and investor confidence. They can lead to increased volatility and pose challenges for regulators in ensuring fair and orderly markets. Moreover, they can prompt discussions about market practices, including short selling regulations and the role of social media in trading.

Role of Regulatory Bodies

Regulatory bodies play a crucial role in overseeing market activities and ensuring fair practices. In the context of short squeezes, regulators are tasked with monitoring trading activities, investigating potential market manipulation, and implementing measures to maintain market integrity.

Regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the United Kingdom have specific guidelines and regulations related to short selling and market manipulation. These regulations aim to protect investors, maintain market efficiency, and prevent systemic risks.

Market Surveillance and Enforcement

Market surveillance is a key function of regulatory bodies, involving the monitoring of trading activities, identifying irregularities or suspicious patterns, and taking appropriate enforcement actions. In the case of short squeezes, regulators closely monitor trading volumes, price movements, and potential collusion among market participants.

Enforcement actions may include investigations, fines, and sanctions against individuals or entities found to be engaging in manipulative practices. Regulators work to uphold market integrity and ensure a level playing field for all participants, deterring activities that could harm market stability.

Global Impact of Short Squeezes

Short squeezes are not limited to specific regions or markets; they can have a global impact due to interconnected financial systems and the widespread availability of information. A short squeeze in one market can trigger ripple effects across other markets, leading to increased volatility and influencing investor sentiment worldwide.

Global financial institutions, central banks, and regulatory bodies closely monitor developments related to short squeezes and their potential systemic implications. Coordination among international stakeholders is essential to address cross-border challenges and maintain the stability of the global financial system.

Lessons Learned from Global Short Squeezes

Global short squeezes have provided valuable lessons for policymakers, market participants, and investors. They have underscored the importance of transparency, risk management, and regulatory cooperation in addressing emerging market dynamics and mitigating risks associated with speculative trading activities.

Lessons learned from past global short squeezes have informed regulatory reforms, enhanced market surveillance capabilities, and fostered greater collaboration among international financial authorities. These efforts aim to promote market resilience, protect investors, and uphold the integrity of the global financial system.


The biggest short squeezes in history offer valuable lessons on the complexities and risks of the financial markets. They remind us of the unpredictable nature of stock prices and the importance of approaching investments with caution and diligence. While short squeezes can present opportunities for some investors, they also highlight the need for comprehensive risk management strategies to navigate the volatile landscape of the stock market.

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TIO Staff

Behind every blog post lies the combined experience of the people working at TIOmarkets. We are a team of dedicated industry professionals and financial markets enthusiasts committed to providing you with trading education and financial markets commentary. Our goal is to help empower you with the knowledge you need to trade in the markets effectively.

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