Shorting a Stock: What You Should Know About Short Selling The Motley Fool Canada

Just as when you go long on margin, it’s easy for losses to get out of hand because you must meet the minimum maintenance requirement of 25%. If your account slips below this, you’ll be subject to a margin call and forced to put in more cash or liquidate your position. Imagine a trader who believes that XYZ stock—currently trading at $50—will decline in price in the next three months. The trader is now “short” 100 shares since they sold something that they did not own but had borrowed. The short sale was only made possible by borrowing the shares, which may not always be available if the stock is already heavily shorted by other traders.

  1. You will either add margin, or at some point you will repurchase the shares at a loss.
  2. By contrast, if the stock soars, there’s no limit to the profits you can enjoy.
  3. For starters, it limits maximum gains while potentially exposing the investor to unlimited losses.
  4. As the underlying asset prices rise, investors are faced with losses to their short position.

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. When the market stabilizes, the investor can close the short position by buying back the shares while maintaining their long-term position in Meta. However, there’s no such limit when investors short sell because a stock’s price can keep rising without limit. For example, you would lose $175 per share if you had a short position in Meta (having borrowed the stock at $200 per share), and the price rose to $375 before you got out. Since there is no limit to how high Meta’s stock price can rise, there’s no limit to the losses for the short sellers involved.

Which Assets Can Be Short-Sold?

Thus, a physical short trade cannot be made under a tax shelter like a TFSA or an RRSP. Profit realized when you buy back the borrowed shares at a lower price is a capital gain and taxed as capital gains. A margin call is when your broker asks you to send money to your margin account. If you can’t or do not send cash fast enough to your margin account, the broker will buy back the shorted stock.

The Short Sale Process for Sellers

Certain stocks may be designated as “hard to borrow” due to a lack of supply, regulatory restrictions, or the unwillingness of brokerage firms to lend out the securities. Both short-selling metrics help investors understand whether the overall sentiment is bullish or bearish for a stock. Even though a company is overvalued, its stock price could take a while to decline. In the meantime, you are vulnerable to interest, margin calls, and being called away. Short sales can only be done if the bank agrees to take a loss on the mortgage they gave to the owner. No short sale may occur without lender approval because it is the lender (not the seller) who will be taking a loss.

What Is a Short Sale?

Unexpected news events can initiate a short squeeze, which may force short sellers to buy at any price to cover their margin requirements. For example, in October 2008, Volkswagen briefly became the most valuable publicly traded company in the world during an epic short squeeze. On the other hand, strategies that offer high risk also offer a high-yield reward. If the seller predicts the price moves correctly, they can make a tidy return on investment, primarily if they use margin to initiate the trade. Using margin provides leverage, which means the trader does not need to put up much of their capital as an initial investment. If done carefully, short selling can be an inexpensive way to hedge, providing a counterbalance to other portfolio holdings.

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In so doing, short sellers buying back the stock help spur further gains in the stock’s price. Because in a short sale, shares are sold on margin, relatively small rises in the price of the stock can lead to even more significant losses. The holder coinmama review of the short position must buy back their shares at current market prices to close the position and avoid further losses. This need to buy can work to bid the price of the stock even higher if there are many people trying to do the same thing.

It increased from about $250 per share to over $900 per share in three months. Most investors shouldn’t be shorting, at least not without doing a lot of research and taking the proper precautions to reduce risk. George Soros, for example, famously shorted the British pound in the early 1990s, making a $1.5 billion profit in a single month, according to one estimate. Founded in 1993, The Motley Fool is a financial services company dedicated to making the world smarter, happier, and richer. The option premium varies based on the strike price and the expiration date of the put option. The higher the strike price and the longer the time until the expiration date, the higher the option premium.

If the current price breaks the average, either down or up, it can signal a new trend in price. As the hard-to-borrow rate can fluctuate substantially from day to day and even on an intraday basis, the exact dollar amount of the fee may not be known in advance. The fee is usually assessed by the broker-dealer to the client’s account either at month-end or upon closing of the short trade. If it is quite large, it can make a big dent in the profitability of a short trade or exacerbate losses on it. Short sales in real estate have proven to benefit everyone involved.

Conversely, some short-sellers will use a “pump-and-dump” strategy, which spreads positive (but false) rumours about a company, raising stock prices momentarily. This gives short-sellers enough time to sell borrowed stock before the prices go back down. Short selling involves borrowing a security whose price you think is going to fall from your brokerage and selling it on the open market. Your plan is to then buy the same stock back later, hopefully for a lower price than you initially sold it for, and pocket the difference after repaying the initial loan. After this initial margin, the short sale is also subject to margin maintenance rules.


Essentially, a put option gives you the right — but not the obligation — to sell a stock at a predetermined price (known as the strike price) at any time before the option contract expires. By contrast, if the stock soars, there’s no limit to the profits you can enjoy. It’s quite common for long-term stock investors to earn profits that are several times the size of their initial investment. At first glance, you might think that short-selling would be just as common as owning stock. In real estate, a short sale is the sale of real estate in which the net proceeds are less than the mortgage owed or the total amount of lien debts that secure the property. In a short sale, the sale is executed when the mortgagee or lienholder accepts an amount less than what is owed and when the sale is an arm’s length transaction.

Regulators may sometimes impose bans on short sales in a specific sector, or even in the broad market, to avoid panic and unwarranted selling pressure. Such actions can cause a sudden spike in stock prices, forcing the short seller to cover short positions at huge losses. While it sounds illegal to sell something you don’t own, the market is tightly regulated. To set up a short position, traders generally borrow shares of the security from their brokerage.

For long-term investors, owning stocks has been a much better bet than short-selling the entire stock market. Shorting, if used at all, is best suited as a short-term profit strategy. 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. Short sellers can buy the borrowed shares and return them to the broker any time before they’re due.

If the stock that was sold short suddenly spikes in price, the trader will have to pump more funds quickly into the margin account. This might happen if the company whose stock has been shorted announces earnings that exceed expectations. A final risk with short selling is what’s known as a short squeeze. This occurs when there’s a price spike in a stock that’s been heavily short sold, which puts pressure on short sellers to close out their positions to minimize losses.