Apparantly Short Sellers Are the New Terrorists

From the NYT:

In the days when square-rigged galleons plied the spice route to the East, the Dutch outlawed a band of rebels that they feared might plunder their new-found riches.
The troublemakers were neither Barbary pirates nor Spanish spies — they were certain traders on the stock exchange in Amsterdam. Their offense: shorting the shares of the Dutch East India Company, purportedly the first company in the world to issue stock.
Short sellers, who sell assets like stocks in the hope that the price will fall, have been reviled ever since. England banned them for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. Napoleon deemed them enemies of the state. And Germany’s last kaiser enlisted them to attack American markets (or so some Americans feared).

There’s also a new academic study that suggests shorts may know what they’re talking about.

We construct a long daily panel of short sales using proprietary NYSE order data. From 2000 to 2004, shorting accounts for more than 12.9% of NYSE volume, suggesting that shorting constraints are not widespread. As a group, these short sellers are well informed. Heavily shorted stocks underperform lightly shorted stocks by a risk-adjusted average of 1.16% over the following 20 trading days (15.6% annualized). Institutional nonprogram short sales are the most informative; stocks heavily shorted by institutions underperform by 1.43% the next month (19.6% annualized). The results indicate that, on average, short sellers are important contributors to efficient stock prices.

Posted by on April 30th, 2008 at 12:33 pm

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