Short Selling 101

With the markets recently incredibly volatile, and now that we are solidly into the high risk, low return time of the year, I thought it’s time to review how to make money when prices are falling.

There is nothing worse than closing the barn door after the horses have bolted.

No doubt, you will receive a wealth of short selling and hedging ideas from your other research sources and the media right at the next market bottom.

That is always how it seems to play out.

So I am going to get you out ahead of the curve, putting you through a refresher course on how to best trade falling markets now while stock prices are still rich.

Markets could be down 10% by the time this is all over.

THAT IS MY LINE IN THE SAND!

There is nothing worse than fumbling around in the dark looking for the matches and candles after a storm has knocked the power out.

I’m not saying that you should sell short the market right here. But there will come a time when you will need to do so. Watch my Trade Alerts for the best market timing. So here are the best ways to profit from declining stock prices, broken down by security type:

Bear ETFs

Of course, the granddaddy of them all is the ProShares Short S&P 500 Fund (SH), a non-leveraged bear ETF that is supposed to match the fall in the S&P 500 point for point on the downside. Hence, a 10% decline in the (SPY) is supposed to generate a 10% gain in the (SH).

In actual practice, it doesn’t work out like that. The ITF has to pay management operating fees and expenses which can be substantial. After all, nobody works for free.

There is also the “cost of carry” whereby owners have to pay the price for borrowing and selling short shares. They are also liable for paying the quarterly dividends for the shares they have borrowed, around 2% a year. And then you have to pay the commissions and spread for buying the ETF.

Still, individuals can protect themselves from downside exposure in their core portfolios through buying the (SH) against it (click here for the prospectus). Short selling is not cheap. But it’s better than watching your gains of the past seven years go up in smoke.

Virtually, all equity indexes now have bear ETFs. Some of the favorites include the (PSQ), a short play on the NASDAQ (click here for the prospectus), and the (DOG) which profits from a plunging Dow Average (click here for the prospectus).

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