Posts filed under “Short Selling”

Exonerating the Shorts

Interesting discussion by the always worth reading Mark Hulbert about a recent research paper on Short Selling.

While I agree with the paper’s conclusion, it overlooks two major related issues regarding short selling.

Let’s look at a few excerpts first:

“Short-selling became particularly controversial during the recent bear market, when many of its practitioners turned a profit while almost all other investors were suffering. This fueled long-held concerns that short-sellers might be inducing the very price declines from which they profit. A series of regulations have been imposed in the last few years to restrict short-sellers’ behavior.”

This reflects the classic Keynes aphorisim that “It is better to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.” Short selling has always been controversial for that exact reason. The small minority who makes a profit when everyone else is panicking into giant losses are always looked at askance.

On a related note, it also has given cover to dishonest management. I have never forgotten advice given me early in my career by a very successful fund manager: “Anytime management complains about short sellers, run-don’t-walk in the opposite direction. Its prima facie evidence of bad leadership — and a guilty conscious about something untoward at the firm.”

That’s been good, money saving — and in the case of Shorts, money making — advice.

So how do short-sellers find their trades?

“According to the new study, titled “How Are Shorts Informed? Short Sellers, News and Information Processing” — Its authors are Joseph E. Engelberg and Adam V. Reed, both finance professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Matthew C. Ringgenberg, a Ph.D. student there. The study has been circulating since January as an academic working paper.

Their work suggests that the average short-seller has done well through astute research and analysis, not market manipulation.”

So far, so good.

Where I disagree with the paper’s results is in the statement “for the most part, at least, ‘short-sellers do not uncover and trade on information before it becomes publicly available,’ the researchers wrote.

We know that is untrue in several high profile short situations. Jim Chanos discovered the fraud at Enron through forensic accounting. David Einhorn figured out that Lehman was playing games with their capital levels and cash ratios. Tyco, World Com, Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae were all high profile shorts that a small handful of people figured out were not what they claimed to be.

Perhaps the difference is psycholgical in nature. Wall Street research tends to cheerlead ore than it analyzes. Approaching analysis without that natural bias allows the discovery of errors and frauds The Street misses. This might be true even using the same publicly available information . . .


The Wisdom of the Short-Sellers
NYT, March 26, 2010

How are Shorts Informed? Short Sellers, News, and Information Processing
Joseph Engelberg,Adam V. Reed, Matthew Ringgenberg
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, February 22, 2010

Category: Research, Short Selling

Waiting for the Next Inflection Point

What are the pros doing? I’ve been speaking with various institutional investors, and I can tell you there is little in the way of uniformity of thought. Here we are, up 70% or so from the lows of over a year ago, and there is no consensus — which is probably a good thing. What…Read More

Category: Markets, Psychology, Short Selling, Trading

60 Minutes: Michael Lewis’ The Big Short

Michael Lewis’ new book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” looks at the financial meltdown.

Part I

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Part II

Watch CBS News Videos Online


There are numerous web extras here:

Web Extra: Is Wall Street Overpaid?
Web Extra: Bailout Blues
Web Extra: The $8.4 Billion Bet
Web Extra: Wall Street Misfit
Web Extra: “The Blind Side”

Wall Street: Inside the Collapse
Author Tells “60 Minutes” What Led to Wall Street Collapse and Who Predicted It

Category: Bailouts, Short Selling, Video

Lehman News Round Up

“Dick Fuld is going to be bankrupted and he’s going to spend the rest of his life in court fighting legal battles. There maybe others forced to do the same.” -Dick Bove of Rochedale Securities. Bove had  all nine volumes of the examiner’s report printed and bound. (Barrons) > As it turned out, Lehman Brothers…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Legal, Regulation, Short Selling

Chanos Reduces Bets Against Health-Care Stocks

click for video

Category: Short Selling, Video

Justin Mamis On New Short Selling Rules

Here is my quote of the day: “Those so-called adults who fuss about short sales are really silly. What competent grown-up would short a stock after – that’s after – it has fallen 10%. Don’t these people understand how the stock market works? Selling short on an uptick is sound, to say nothing of having…Read More

Category: Regulation, Short Selling

SEC Short Ban: “Regulation By Placebo”

And speaking about not understanding what caused the bear market, we have this recent SEC action: “The Securities and Exchange Commission narrowly approved curbs on short selling, addressing what some consider a cause of the 2008 financial crisis despite criticism that there was no evidence to support the move. The commission voted 3-2 on party…Read More

Category: Regulation, Short Selling

James Chanos on Earnings, Shorting, China, Greece

Famed short-seller James Chanos, president of Kynikos Associates, shares his market insight.

Airtime: Thurs. Feb. 4 2010 | 7:05 AM ET

Part 2

Airtime: Thurs. Feb. 4 2010 | 7:35 AM ET

Part 3

Airtime: Thurs. Feb. 4 2010 | 8:20 AM ET

Part 4

Category: Short Selling, Video

What Type of Bear Are You ?

Funny, despite having flipped bullish earlier this year, I still get all manner of Bear email sent to me. I guess any bullishness from me is perceived as a trading call only (heh heh) . Anyway, this hit my inbox, via FallStreet — I guess I am a Cub — and I found it amusing:…Read More

Category: Psychology, Short Selling


Whatever little patience I had with Patrick Byrne, and his overzealous friends at, has now become officially exhausted. As I noted last week ( Scraping Facebook Friends), this group found the Facebook friends and relatives of any journalist, critic, fund manager or blogger who dared to  criticize Overstock (or Deep Capture), and then published…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Retail, Short Selling, Web/Tech