How to Short Stocks: A Beginner’s Guide to Short Selling

what is shorting shares

This process is often facilitated behind the scenes by one’s broker. If there are not many shares available for shorting, then the interest costs to sell short will be higher. Short selling is sometimes criticized, and short sellers are sometimes viewed as ruthless operators out to destroy companies. However, the reality is that short selling provides liquidity—meaning enough sellers and buyers—in markets and can help prevent bad stocks from rising on hype and over-optimism.

On the other hand, some very public short sellers are happy to spread rumors or opinions that try to discredit profitable companies and scare the market into selling them. This practice hurts the company’s shareholders, causing their stock to trade below where it otherwise would trade. The short seller can then profit on the fear or doubt and book a profitable short sale. If stock is not being sold, and there are too many short sellers also trying to close out their positions, we could be caught in a ‘short squeeze’ situation and incur further losses. To illustrate with an example, let’s say I borrow 10,000 shares of Vodafone plc stock at a stock price of 200p each, and sell them in the market.

Short sellers may be rushing to avoid a soaring stock or they may be forced to buy back stock as their losses mount and the equity for a margin loan in their account dwindles. When you’re shorting stock, you’re borrowing against the equity in your account. This means that you could suffer a margin call from your broker. In this case, you’ll have to put more cash in your account or liquidate positions, or if you’re unable to do so, your broker may liquidate positions for you.

  1. If the share prices do indeed fall, then the investor buys those same shares back at a lower price.
  2. If the price of a shorted security begins to rise rather than fall, the losses can mount up quickly.
  3. Most hedge funds try to hedge market risk by selling short stocks or sectors that they consider overvalued.
  4. You have a variety of options to choose from, including stocks, commodity futures of all types, bonds, forex and CFDs.

To summarize, short selling is the act of betting against a stock by selling borrowed shares and then repurchasing them at a lower cost and returning them later. Given the market’s long-term upward bias, many investors find it hard to short stocks and achieve consistent, profitable results. What’s more, the risk — especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing — is much higher than a buy-and-hold strategy. If this happens, a short seller might receive a “margin call” and have to put up more collateral in the account to maintain the position or be forced to close it by buying back the stock. When a share starts gaining, instead of falling, that’s trouble for the short seller. Losses are theoretically infinite since there’s no limit to how high a share price can go.

Because stocks and markets often decline much faster than they rise and some over-valued securities can be profit opportunities. Short selling is ideal for short-term traders who have the wherewithal to keep a close eye on their trading positions, as well as the necessary experience to make quick trading decisions. Let’s say you have opened a margin account and are now looking for a suitable short-selling candidate. You decide that Conundrum Co. (a fictional company) is poised for a substantial decline, and decide to short 100 shares at $50 per share. Short selling can provide some defense against financial fraud by exposing companies that have fraudulently attempted to inflate their performances. Short sellers often do their homework, thoroughly researching before adopting a short position.

How Do You Short the Market?

Heavily shorted stocks can be expensive to borrow, sometimes more than 100% per year. However, UK regulators hold a different view, with the opinion that if carried out as a genuine and transparent trading strategy, short selling alone does not lead to major market falls. In such circumstances, the broker could demand that we cover the short, or return their stock, at any time.

Shares that are difficult to borrow—because of high short interest, limited float, or any other reason—have “hard-to-borrow” fees that can be quite substantial. Short selling acts as a reality check that can eventually limit the rise of stocks being bid up to ridiculous levels during times of excessive exuberance. You decide to sell short 100 shares of Microsoft and place the trade with your broker.

When it comes time to close a position, a short seller might have trouble finding enough shares to buy—if many other traders are shorting the stock or the stock is thinly traded. Conversely, sellers can get caught in a short squeeze loop if the market, or a particular stock, starts to skyrocket. However, a trader who has shorted stock can lose much more than 100% of their original investment.

What is shorting a stock using an example?

Later, they hope to buy back that stock at a cheaper price and return the borrowed stock in an effort to profit on the difference in prices. Even the brokerage firm that offers the trade may have borrowed shares as collateral. A naked short is when a trader sells a security without instaforex review having possession of it. A covered short is when a trader borrows the shares from a stock loan department; in return, the trader pays a borrowing rate during the time the short position is in place. The dominant trend for a stock market or sector is during a bear market.

what is shorting shares

However, a stock could potentially rise for years, making a series of higher highs. One of the most dangerous aspects of being short is the potential for a short squeeze. Experienced investors frequently engage in short selling for both purposes simultaneously.

More reading for active investors and traders

The SEC also has the authority to impose temporary short-selling bans on specific stocks under certain conditions, such as extreme market volatility. Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master’s in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology.

Say the company has been performing well and currently trades at $200 per share. The investor expects short-term market volatility that might cause a temporary drop in Meta’s stock price but does not want to sell the shares as part of a long-term plus500 broker strategy. To protect the portfolio, the investor short sells shares of Meta as a hedge. If its price drops, the loss in the investor’s long position will be offset by gains in the short position, thus reducing the overall loss in their portfolio.

It tends to go up over time, and most individual stocks follow the same trend as the overall market. The biggest risk of shorting is that the stock can go up, sometimes by a lot. Here are some of the key risks to be aware of when selling stocks short. It may be easier to understand short selling by considering the following analogy.

Shorting a stock means opening a position by borrowing shares that you don’t own and then selling them to another investor. Shorting, or selling short, is a bearish stock position — in other words, you might short a stock if you feel strongly that its share price was going to decline. Since there is no limit to how high a stock (or market) can climb, there is no way to coinspot reviews cap your losses. This is a fundamental difference from traditional trading and it makes short sales very risky for the retail investor. And with spread betting, you are placing a bet on the direction of the market price (by going short if you think it will fall). You choose a certain currency value per point when you open your position, which will determine your profit.

Such research often brings to light information not readily available elsewhere and certainly not commonly available from brokerage houses that prefer to issue buy rather than sell recommendations. Short selling is perhaps one of the most misunderstood topics in the realm of investing. In fact, short sellers are often reviled as callous individuals out for financial gain at any cost, without regard for the companies and livelihoods destroyed in the short-selling process. Short sellers have been labeled by some critics as being unethical because they bet against the economy. Your profit is capped at 100%, and that is if the stock literally falls all the way to zero.