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Short Selling of your Investment Portfolio

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Online investment portfolio short sellingWhat is short selling?

Short selling allows you to make money on a stock that is falling in price.


Shorting vs. Going Long chart

The normal process of "going long" involves buying first and selling last, hopefully at a higher price.

Short selling is the same concept of buying low and selling high, but in the reverse order. You borrow some stock from your brokerage and immediately sell it on the market. After the stock drops in price you must buy some shares from the market and return them to your brokerage. It sounds complicated at first, but it is really almost as easy as "going long."

Here is the process:

  1. Request the short sell from your brokerage.
  2. Your brokerage will lend you the shares, if they have them available. It's not uncommon for the shares to be unavailable.
  3. Your brokerage will immediately try to sell the shares on the stock market.
  4. Cash from the sale goes into a special short-sell account that you cannot access. It is used as collateral for the shares that you borrowed.
  5. Wait for the stock to go down.
  6. Finish the trade by choosing "Buy to Cover." This action will buy shares from the market and return them to your brokerage. You will have made a profit if your short sale price was higher than your buy back price (minus any commissions).
  7. Note that your brokerage may request that you return the shares at any time. They may need to return the shares to other customers.
Short selling is not as common as going long for several reasons:
  • It requires a margin account, which has special requirements.
  • There is the risk of losing more than 100% of your money from your investment portfolio.
  • Some people consider it wrong to bet against a company.

Despite these concerns, short selling is successfully used every day by thousands of traders. It is actually a healthy part of the markets. For example, when the markets are having a bad day, who is buying the shares that most people are trying to get rid of? Short sellers are, along with the "longs" who are trying to buy at bargain prices. They are trying to cover their shorted positions and take a profit.

  Practice Shorting button with our free Virtual Stock Exchange!

Our stock market site trading game requires 50% collateral for the initial short sale value, which is similar to real brokerage requirements.

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