Finance An Amazon-based retail trade has quadrupled the stock market's return this year

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You could've made four times the S&P 500 this year if you embraced the retail apocalypse by going long Amazon and shorting the least popular retail companies.

Even Jeff Bezos is surely surprised about the killing you could've made going long Amazon and shorting the least popular retail stocks. play

Even Jeff Bezos is surely surprised about the killing you could've made going long Amazon and shorting the least popular retail stocks.

(Reuters)
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You could've made four times the S&P 500 this year if you fully embraced an Amazon-driven retail apocalypse.

All you had to do was make bullish bets on Amazon while placing bearish wagers on the most-shorted retailers, in proportion to their short interest, according to data compiled by the financial-analytics provider S3 Partners. Putting $100 million to work on either end of the trade would've netted a 43.7% return in 2017, according to the firm's data.

That's more than quadruple the benchmark S&P 500's roughly 10% gain this year through last week's close and well over double the return for the Nasdaq Composite index, which has climbed 18%.

One company that's recently been feeling the effects of Amazon's growing influence is Target, which announced last Friday that it had lowered prices on thousands of items in an attempt to wrestle back market share from the e-commerce juggernaut. Investors remained unconvinced and sold the company's stock, sending it down 2% on the day.

It's just the latest sign of trader skepticism around Target, which is the most-shorted stock in the multiline retail sector and would've therefore been the biggest bearish target in the aforementioned pair trade, according to S3.

Investors are holding almost $3.3 billion of Target shares short, after having made $480 million in mark-to-market profit betting against the company so far in 2017, according to S3's data.

But Target is just one of many retailers getting hit hard as the industry adjusts to a new reality in which customers are increasingly using online outlets like Amazon for their shopping needs. As of Wednesday, 6,403 store closings had been announced this year, Business Insider reported.

The most-shorted multiline retail stocks as a group have lost 13.6% this year. That stands in stark contrast to Amazon's nearly 30% gain.

So what other retailers beyond Target are in the crosshairs of short sellers? No surprises here: Kohl's, Dollar General, Nordstrom, and Macy's round out the top five. Here's a full list of the most-shorted basket, courtesy of S3 Partners:

A breakdown of the most-shorted multiline retail stocks. play

A breakdown of the most-shorted multiline retail stocks.

(S3 Partners)