Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Why Short Selling has been at the Losing End

Short sellers have been at the losing end.

THE long-short ratio of global equities, a gauge of market sentiment, is at a five-year high. The ratio, which measures the value of stocks available for short-selling to what is actually on loan, shows longs outnumber shorts by a factor of more than 12, suggesting investors are increasingly bullish. Higher stockmarkets are driving the ratio upwards, as the amount on loan has not changed significantly in the last few years. The appetite for short-selling has been affected by uncertainty over regulation, and by a change of strategy from hedge funds (big short-sellers), which have been less leveraged since the financial crisis. But while the long-short ratio of American and European equities has increased, bears are far from extinct: between 7% and 8% of lendable value is still on loan to short-sellers.


The “appetite for short-selling has been affected by uncertainty over regulation” has been true, but the significance of the role of policies influencing the marketplace seems to have been downplayed.

It must be remembered that markets respond to policies even as many of the current policies has been instituted to affect or influence the markets. 

The fact is that numerous countries have resorted to directly banning of equity and bond short sales despite the questionable efficacy of such measures. 

Inflationism employed by global central banks led by the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Banks have explicitly been targeted to shore up asset prices which means an assault on equity short sellers and bond vigilantes too. 

The US crisis of 2008 reveals that tax and administrative policies had influences to the housing bubble. 

I hardly see any material changes on these.

The point is that current supposed “wealth effect” policies meant to promote asset bubbles signifies as an onslaught against short selling. Or policies have been designed to discriminate against equity short sellers and the bond vigilantes.

The real reason for such policies has hardly about “wealth effect” but to prop up the balance sheets of many insolvent political economic systems (banking-central banking-welfare and warfare state).

Short sellers and bond vigilantes will resurface in the fullness of time.

As a side note: In the Philippines, regulations on short sales have rendered short selling basically impractical. Thus, financial institutions have been incented to see a one directional market: up or a boom. 

Yet reality tells us that policies that shapes a boom will eventually lead to a bust.

No comments: