Browse Investments Products

9.3.3 Risks Of Short Selling

Understanding the various risks associated with short selling, including borrowing shares, maintaining adequate margin, liability for dividends, buy-in requirements, volatile price action, and regulatory risk.


Short selling involves various risks which every investor should be aware of. These risks are critical, and understanding them is essential for anyone considering this investment strategy. Below are detailed explanations of the primary risks associated with short selling:

Risks Associated with Short Selling

1. Borrowing Shares

One of the foundational aspects of short selling is the ability to borrow shares. However, it may be challenging to borrow a sufficient quantity of the security sold short to maintain the short sale. If the investor cannot borrow shares, the short sale cannot be initiated or sustained.

2. Adequate Margin

The short seller must maintain an adequate margin in the short account as the price of the shorted security fluctuates. The margin requirement ensures that the investor has enough collateral to cover potential losses, which can vary as the security price changes.

3. Liability for Dividends

The short seller is liable for any dividends or other benefits paid during the period that the position is short. This can impact the overall cost of the short sale, as the seller must pay any issuer benefits back to the lender.

4. Buy-in Requirements

If an adequate margin cannot be maintained, the investment dealer must buy back the stock to close the short sale. Similarly, if the borrowed stock is called by its owner, the client may be unable to borrow other stock to replace it, potentially forcing a buy-in at an inopportune time.

5. Insufficient Information

Accurate, up-to-date information on total short sales for a security may be difficult to obtain. Exchanges do not report short positions daily, and no data is usually available on unlisted short sales, making it challenging to gauge market sentiment accurately.

6. Price Action

The price of a shorted security may become volatile when a significant number of short sellers attempt to cover their positions simultaneously, creating a buying rush and a potential price spike.

7. Unlimited Risk

Unlike a typical investor who can lose no more than the security’s purchase price, short sellers face the possibility of unlimited loss if the shorted stock’s price rises dramatically. There is no maximum to the potential loss, as the stock’s price can theoretically rise indefinitely.

8. Regulatory Risk

There is always the risk that regulators may ban short selling for certain types of stocks. A notable example occurred during the credit crisis when the SEC banned short sales of banks and other financial institutions. Such regulatory changes can force short sellers to cover positions at a loss, creating upward price spikes.

Trading on Margin

Understanding the key differences between buying long on margin and selling short, along with mastering margin strategies, is crucial from an investment perspective. Consider these aspects carefully before engaging in either type of trading.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a short sale?

A short sale involves borrowing shares of a security and selling them with the obligation to buy them back and return them at a later date.

Why is maintaining adequate margin important?

Adequate margin is essential to ensure the investor’s positions can cover potential losses, minimizing the risk of mandatory buy-ins.

How can regulatory risk affect short selling?

Regulatory risk can drastically impact short selling as regulators may impose bans or restrictions on short sales, which can force covering positions at substantial losses.

Key Takeaways

  • Short selling exposes investors to several risks, including unlimited potential losses, insufficient information, and regulatory changes.
  • The essential requirements for short selling include the ability to borrow shares and maintaining adequate margin.
  • Being liable for dividends and encountering volatile price action are significant risks to consider.


  • Short Selling: Selling borrowed shares with the intent to buy them back at a lower price.
  • Margin: Collateral deposited by an investor to cover potential losses in the market.
  • Buy-in: A situation where borrowed shares must be bought back to close a short position.
  • Regulatory Risk: The potential for changes in laws or regulations that can impact trading activities.


Margin Requirements Model

    graph LR
	    A[Stock Price Rises] --> B{Margin Call?}
	    B -- Yes --> C[Increase Margin<br>#40;Deposit More Funds#41;]
	    B -- No --> D[No Action Needed]
	    E[Stock Price Falls] --> F{Maintain Margin?}
	    F -- Yes --> G[Continue Short Position]
	    F -- No --> H[Buy-in Required]

Further Reading

📚✨ Quiz Time! ✨📚

🧐 Assess and Solidify Your Understanding

Welcome to the Knowledge Checkpoint! You’ll find 10 carefully curated quizzes designed to reinforce the key concepts covered. These questions will help you gauge your grasp of the material, identify areas that need further review, and ensure you’re on the right track towards mastering the content for the Canadian Securities certification exams. Take your time, think critically, and use these quizzes as a tool to enhance your learning journey. 📘✨

Good luck! 🍀💪

## What is one of the primary risks associated with borrowing shares for short selling? - [ ] The borrowed shares' price might drop drastically - [ ] Increased liquidity in the market - [ ] Improved profitability - [x] Difficulty in borrowing a sufficient quantity of the security > **Explanation:** Borrowing a sufficient quantity of the security sold short can be challenging, which can affect the ability to maintain the short sale. ## Why must a short seller maintain adequate margin in the short account? - [ ] To increase the profits - [x] To account for price fluctuations of the shorted security - [ ] To decrease the liability for dividends - [ ] To get tax benefits > **Explanation:** The short seller must maintain adequate margin to manage the risk of price changes in the shorted security, ensuring they can meet margin requirements. ## What is the liability of a short seller regarding dividends? - [ ] They are exempt from any dividends paid during the short period - [x] They are liable for any dividends or other benefits paid during the period the account is short - [ ] They only pay half of the dividends - [ ] They have no financial obligations whatsoever > **Explanation:** Short sellers must pay any dividends or benefits distributed while the stock is short as they are borrowing someone else's shares. ## What happens if sufficient margin is not maintained by the short seller? - [ ] The investment dealer may offer a loan - [ ] The short sale position strengthens - [x] The investment dealer must buy back the stock to close the short sale - [ ] There is no consequence > **Explanation:** If adequate margin is not maintained, the investment dealer is obligated to buy back the stock to close the short position. ## What is "buy-in requirement" in the context of short selling? - [ ] The need to invest more in the stock market - [ ] The requirement to physically hold the shorted stock - [ ] The obligation to purchase more shorted stocks - [x] The necessity for the investment dealer to buy back the stock to close the short sale if margin or borrowed stock conditions are not met > **Explanation:** A buy-in requirement forces the dealer to buy back stocks to close the short sale if adequate margin is not maintained or if the borrowed stock is recalled. ## Why is it hard to obtain up-to-date information about short sales? - [ ] Information is readily available on daily exchange reports - [ ] The data varies significantly each minute - [ ] Exchanges continuously publish real-time data on short sale positions - [x] Exchanges do not report short positions daily, and no data is available on unlisted short sales > **Explanation:** Exchange data on short sales is not regularly updated, making it difficult to obtain accurate and current information. ## What is a potential consequence of many short sellers covering their positions simultaneously? - [ ] Reduced stock volatility - [x] Increased volatility and a buying rush - [ ] Decreased stock prices - [ ] Enhanced market stability > **Explanation:** When many short sellers cover their positions at the same time, it can cause a sudden spike in buying activity, leading to heightened volatility and rapid price increases. ## What makes the risk of short selling potentially unlimited? - [ ] Limited rise in stock prices - [x] No limit to how high the price of a stock can rise, leading to potentially unlimited losses - [ ] No loss beyond the security’s purchase price - [ ] Fixed limit on losses > **Explanation:** Unlike regular investments where losses are capped at the purchase price, short sellers face unlimited risk because stock prices can rise indefinitely. ## What regulatory risk might affect short sellers? - [ ] Mandatory short selling for certain stocks - [x] Regulatory bodies banning short sales of certain stocks - [ ] Guaranteed profit from short sales - [ ] Obligation to diminish stock prices > **Explanation:** Regulatory agencies might impose bans on short selling certain stocks, forcing short sellers to cover their positions at a loss, particularly evident during the credit crisis. ## How does a regulatory ban on short selling affect the market? - [ ] It has no impact on market prices - [ ] It permanently reduces stock prices - [x] Short sellers may be forced to cover their positions, causing an upward price spike - [ ] It stabilizes the market by freezing stock prices > **Explanation:** When a regulatory ban on short selling is implemented, short sellers might have to cover their short positions, leading to a sudden increase in stock prices due to heightened buying activity.

Exciting News!

🚀 Launch Date: April 14th

🎉 Now On App Store!

📱 Available on iPhone and iPad

📚 Master the CSC® Exams with our top ranked iOS app! Packed with thousands of sample questions, it's your perfect study companion for acing the Canadian Securities Course Certification exams!

🎯 Achieve Your Professional Goals with ease. Try it now and take the first step towards success!

🌟 CSC® Exams 🌟

Download Today!

Saturday, July 13, 2024