Table of Contents
What is short selling?
Short selling for dummies
What are the costs of a short sale?
Shorting stocks FAQs
The bottom line
How to Short a Stock
A step-by-step guide on how to short stock and reasons why investors sell short.
If you’re looking to build your financial portfolio, you’ve probably heard your fair share of advice telling you to buy low and sell high or to invest in ETFs. If the market is declining, it can be disheartening if there are few opportunities to get a return in the stock market. In these cases, some investors take advantage of a downtick in the market using a trading strategy called short selling.
So, what is shorting a stock and what are the steps to doing it?
Short selling is—in short—when you bet against a stock. You first borrow shares of stock from a lender, sell the borrowed stock, and then buy back the shares at a lower price assuming your speculation is correct. You then pocket the difference between the sale of the borrowed shares and the repurchase at a lower price.
If short selling stocks sounds like a reasonable investment strategy to you, you’re probably wondering how to actually short a stock.
You can make decent profits from a short sale if your timing is right, especially in a market sector with volatility. If you believe the stock's current price is overvalued, you can profit quickly in the short term from short selling when a stock price drops suddenly.
Another way to take a short position is through a put option, which is significantly less risky than short selling.
Remember that margin account you need to go short? You'll have to pay interest on the margin of the borrowed shares. Margin interest is an expected cost on all short trades, but you should also be prepared to pay a fee if the shares are deemed "hard to borrow" (meaning there are limited shares), and it's difficult for the broker to find a lender for the short sale. You are also on the hook for paying dividends on the shares and any other events on the stock you are shorting.
You can go short for a variety of reasons. One of those is speculation, or when you believe that the value of a stock will fall in the future. Short positions are also used as a hedge against the risk of a long position. Individual investors will utilize this and hedge funds to lower potential losses of a long position. In recent years, Wall Street hedge funds have used short selling to lessen the amount of risk involved.
The most you can make from going short is 100% of the initial sale of the short stock. This means that if the value of the shares falls to zero, you pocket the initial sale of the now-worthless shares.
In short, yes. The potential for significant losses makes short selling a risky trading strategy and is typically recommended only if you are an experienced investor.
If a stock price rises, you lose the difference between the stock’s purchase price and the higher price when you close out your short position, plus any additional fees and interest payments needed to execute the trading strategy.
With a short trade, the stock’s value could theoretically rise infinitely, and therefore you could have unlimited losses. If your speculation is wrong and the share values increase, you could find yourself in a dreaded short squeeze, where investors rush to buy back shares and drive the demand and price of the stock even higher.
Short selling is controversial because some believe it is unethical to bet against the stock market. Some believe short sellers will also intentionally attempt to make a company fail or use other unethical market manipulations for personal profit. In reality, short selling helps keep investors' expectations realistic by providing necessary scrutiny of stocks. It also adds a level of liquidity to the market that often makes for increased efficiency.
There are a limited number of shares for a stock, so you have to borrow shares from a lender in a long position. You pay the lender interest for the privilege to borrow the shares to go short.
Trading with borrowed shares is also referred to as margin trading, and borrowers are responsible for margin interest.
A short squeeze is one of the risks of short selling. With a short squeeze, if you are wrong in your speculation of a fall in share value and the price of stock suddenly rises, you can find yourself in a feedback loop.
As other short sellers scramble to buy back borrowed shares, the demand for the scarce shares rises along with the price of the stock. Everyone in a short position then keeps driving the prices higher as they look for shares to buy back to close out their short positions.
Short selling requires you to be aware of a share’s market price while making the trade and have a high-risk tolerance because of the potential for unlimited losses.
Stock trading can be a potential way to build your wealth (albeit somewhat risky), and short selling is an alternative trading strategy that you can use to profit even in a downtick.
At Titan, we are value investors: we aim to manage our portfolios with a steady focus on fundamentals and an eye on massive long-term growth potential. Investing with Titan is easy, transparent, and effective.
Get started today.
Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, Titan has not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements; Titan has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.
This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any strategy managed by Titan. Any investments referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in strategies managed by Titan, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results.
Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see Titan’s Legal Page for additional important information.
You might also like
Examples of How to Short a Stock
Are you an investor looking to attempt to profit from shorting stocks? Here are three scenarios that illustrate how to short sell your stocks.
Short Selling Explained: Definition & Rules
Want to know the rules and regulations an investor needs to know when short selling? Here’s our complete guide, with answers to common short selling questions.
What is Shorting a Stock?
Investors can potentially make significant profits through short selling stocks, but it comes with substantial risks.