Short Selling

There are so many different ways to make money in the stock market. The most basic way with stock shares is to buy them low enough and then sell them at a higher price later.

Did you know that it’s possible to make money in the reverse? You can sell shares in the market at a higher price first and then buy them back at a lower price later. This is called short selling.

The concept of short selling had me confused at first. I’d only heard that it was something a lot of traders did when they anticipated a drop in stock prices. None of it made sense until I executed my first short sale.


My First Short 

Many years ago, a certain company messed up royally and was getting a lot of bad press. Shareholders were selling in a panic and the share price was dropping in high volumes. I saw that the price was at around $76 and I believed it would go down more. I lined up my order to sell 600 shares at the current market price and I hit, “Short.”

After that, the price fell considerably. In the order box I clicked on, “Cover,” and I bought back 600 shares at the new market price of $74.75. That is a share price difference of $1.25. With 600 shares, I made $750, excluding commissions.

Broken down, it looks like this:

  • I short sell 600 shares for $76 per share (600 x $76 = $45,600). By doing that, I’m borrowing the shares from my brokerage to sell in the market for that price;
  • The share price falls;
  • Then I buy back (or cover) 600 shares at the current price of $74.75 (600 x 74.75 = $44,850)
  • At the end of my trade, those borrowed shares are returned to my broker. I get to keep the difference in the short sale for a profit of $750;
  • $45,600 – $44,850 = $750.

Despite the order at which the transactions occurred, the concept of buying low (at $74.75) and selling higher (at $76) is still preserved.


The Downside of Short Selling

As great as it sounds to make money when share prices are heading down, short selling is a riskier practice. Here are some reasons to consider:

1.Many investors don’t short sell or even know what that is. This means you don’t always have the majority of the market on your side.

2. Shorting is made possible when your brokerage firm has the shares to loan you from its own inventory of stocks. These stocks are either from the firm’s own positions or from the positions of the firm’s clients. If your broker doesn’t have the shares to loan you, you cannot short sell the stock. You end up missing out.

3. The market is generally optimistic. This means the fear and panic don’t always last as long as you might hope to support your short sell. Price reversals can happen fast. You generally need to have a shorter time horizon for shorts and you need to be watching your positions more closely.

4. When you buy a stock in the standard fashion, the worst thing that can happen is that your share price drops to zero before you’re able to sell it. In this scenario, the most you can lose is the entire amount of your investment. When you short a stock, the share price can go up indefinitely — this means you can lose more than the entire amount of your original position. Potential unlimited losses is what makes shorting considered a high-risk practice.

5. Profits from short selling are normally taxed as income rather than as capital gains. This is not favourable taxation.

6. If the company that you’re short selling is paying out a dividend, you have to pay the dividends owing to your firm or to the client those shares are being borrowed from.


Why I Don’t Short Sell

The reasons above are enough to discourage me from shorting, though there are many more that I haven’t mentioned. Short selling is a more advanced way to make money in the stock market and is best left to the pros. I don’t short stocks anymore because I prefer to own them.

I normally don’t discuss short selling because it’s not for most people, not to mention it’s really confusing. I only feel like it’s relevant to discuss shorting in a market like the current one so that new investors can understand the additional reasons why the prices of their stocks might be going down so much. It’s not just from investors collecting profits or abandoning their stocks out of fear of losing more — it’s also from short sellers trying to profit.

After the short sellers have had their fun and after all the panic selling and pessimism have subsided, it usually takes a while for a stock to recover before going up again with more investor confidence. I’ve got my wish list of stocks to consider buying when all the selling is over, so I’m just waiting for good setups and a better market.


Alternatives to Short Selling

Even when the whole market is negative, I don’t always want to sell my stocks, nor do I short any stocks, as you already know. Sometimes to combat the downward funk, I will buy shares of inverse ETFs to make money in the interim.

Inverse ETFs are exchange-traded funds made up of more complex financial instruments that generate money when the market is moving down. Like a regular ETF, its movements mimic the market index ETF it is modelled after, however, it’s designed to go in the opposite direction. Basically, when the market index goes down, the inverse ETF goes up. 

Index ETFs are often created in a way to move up to 3 times more than the index performance or up to 3 times less. These differences in performance can either enhance your trade or really hurt it when you’re wrong.  You have to be careful and consider this when selecting ETFs.

I still regard buying an inverse ETF a very risky strategy as it’s still in theory ‘shorting’ the market. Also, inverse ETFs tend to have higher management fees because they consist of higher maintenance assets than most regular ETFs. Higher fees and MERs in funds diminish their value and overall returns. For this reason, I usually only buy and sell them for shorter-term swing trades.


Before investing in an inverse ETF or deciding to short sell anything, please consider the risks. At this point in time (it’s December 2018), I think the market will go up a bit more before it goes down again early in the new year. We’re so close to the year’s lowest trading levels of the US markets. I don’t think things will really start moving up again until we at least break below those 2018 levels first.

I know a lot of investors who have been feeling beat up and want to do something to save their portfolios. If you’ve been feeling this way for the last few months, the best thing to do at this point is to think of your future strategies for your portfolio and be ready for them once the market is more positive.

Remember that downswings and bear markets are a normal part of the cycle for stocks – nothing goes only in one direction forever. Going short now after the market has gone down so much is not only is riskier, the returns won’t be as great had you gone short in early fall.

Market View from Costa Rica

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Jaco Beach, Costa Rica

It seems like a lifetime ago since I last posted a blog in February. I’d made a lot of life-changing decisions since the start of the year. I left my amazing job; I travelled to many places; I finished the courses I needed to become a certified equities trader; I moved to Costa Rica where I now live with my spouse; and when I’m not working on my rusty Spanish or chilling on the beach, I’m trading for myself.

My life may seem as volatile as the market these last few months. I don’t view volatility as a bad thing, though. I feel that drastic changes force us to adapt and stay sharp. We should be in a better place by the time we make it to the other side.

I’ve been hearing from friends who are concerned about the market. It’s understandable. The bear market I’d been anticipating came hard and fast. As of yesterday, the Canadian market’s gains of 2018 and 2017 have been wiped out. My answer to my friends has been consistent: You can either get out now or you can hold on — either way, be ready for when the time comes to get back in.

I’m not new to market drops. I started to learn about stock trading in 2008. It was a good time to learn because I saw how bad things can get before they get better again. Each time fear and pessimism took over (in 2011 and 2015/2016), after the market freak-out, I eventually found bargains of some very solid stocks. And I learned from these times which stocks I really wanted to own in my portfolio for the long term. Should there be another 2009, I want to be ready to buy when there’s a recovery. My stock wish list is comparable to my Christmas wish lists as a kid: unrealistic but crazy optimistic that one day, it’ll all be mine!

My current outlook is a lot more short-term and I’m taking less risk by using fewer shares and making fewer trades. Some of my stocks I thought I would own for a long time, but I had to let go and bank on the gains while they were still there for me to take. I find myself sitting out more often on what normally would be great opportunities. Am I always right? Of course not. It’s just not the right market to jump on most opportunities. I feel that my best play is to think defensively and to be more hands-on by watching the prices of my stocks more closely than usual.

The US market is still above its lows from this year. If it takes that out and then eventually 2017’s lows, the move will cause more downward pressure on the Canadian market. To what extent, I’m not sure. I’ll be paying attention to the support levels of previous years.


My Stock Wish List

My wish list consists of mostly American stocks, some Canadian, and some ETFs. It’s likely to change and that’s fine, I have plenty of time to decide. I already own a few of these stocks, but I keep them on my wish list because I want to remember to buy more of their shares later on.

  • ADBE
  • AMZN
  • ADT.A.TO
  • AXP
  • BABA
  • COST
  • DIA
  • DIS
  • DOL.TO
  • FB
  • FDX
  • GOOGL
  • HD
  • JNJ
  • LULU
  • MA
  • MSFT
  • NFLX
  • NKE
  • QQQ
  • SBH
  • SBUX
  • SPY
  • TSLA
  • ULTA
  • V
  • WEED.TO
  • WTW
  • XIC.TO
  • XIU.TO

 

 

The Market Dumps

 

Dailies

The SPY, QQQ, DIA, and XIC ETFs on freestockcharts.com

While some investors have been freaking out, I’ve been casually checking the market and my portfolios. Is this the correction I’d been impatiently waiting for?

Looking at the daily charts of the SPY, the Qs, the Diamonds, and the XIC, you can see a few major things happening here. A big precipitous move often creates another one. Look at the XIC on Monday, Jan 29. It gapped down and just kept going. Something similar happened to the Dow on Tuesday. While there was some defending going on, it still broke its trend on Friday. The SPY and Qs had a huge down day like the others on Friday; however, their uptrends are still intact. It will be interesting to see if there’s a bit of a bounce before these go down even more and break their shorter-term trends.

 

Weeklies

When we pan out and inspect the weekly charts, it’s hard not to notice the glaring red candle on the XIC. Whoa, Canada! In one week, it wiped out all the gains made since mid-October. The other charts only came down past the gains from the last week or two. If this is the start of the move down for the US market, it might be wise to take some profits off your US stocks before they correct even further.

Monthlies

As for me, I’m just hanging onto everything and waiting for my next buying opportunity. In fact, I transferred more cash into my registered accounts so that I’ll be ready when I see a good trade is on.

I’m noticing some beautiful monthly corrections on the weed stocks. You can bet that I will be scaling into these before their next big move. If you have difficulty selecting which weed stocks to buy, then just buy the ETF, HMMJ. You can visit this link to get more information on the fund and its stock holdings. I created a watchlist on freestockcharts.com with all the stocks that are in the HMMJ ETF. I like to cruise through the charts and check out which ones are helping the portfolio or weighing it down.

Stock Picks

selloffs

Market ETFs: SPY, QQQ, DIA, and XIC on freestockcharts.com

The US market is making me nervous as the charts get higher with bigger candles. At some point, it’s gotta sell off, right? I notated on the charts the last months where the most selling happened.

Market cycles can either be four months for the shorter term, or eight to ten months. The SPY and DIA show their last major sell-offs were in March of last year. The Canadian market, on the other hand, looks like it could be halfway through its current move up. It could pause for a bit at the current highs before continuing its move. If the US market pulls back, it’ll be interesting to see how the Canadian market will react.

It’s been a hectic week for me and I’m gearing to go back to work tomorrow. I managed to do a quick search and I found some decent charts to check out:

  • BB.TO
  • PD.TO
  • ACBN.TO (watch for a consolidation setup on the daily chart)
  • ENB.TO

Be sure to check the sector and do your necessary research and take the right amount of risk so that you can feel confident in your trades/investments.


Oh, and happy new year!

 

The Transparent RRSP: Breakout, Breakdown

The week of December 18
  • I bought 35 shares of TPK.V at $6.55 on December 18. It cost $229.25 plus $0.35 in commissions. There is $11.86 in cash left in the RRSP account.
TPK

TPK.V price chart on freestockcharts.com

Last Monday, I put in a limit order to buy 35 shares of TPK.V at $6.55 and it was filled at that price. I was so glad as it went straight up right after…until it did a reversal on Wednesday. It’s now back to my entry price.

I did the above screenshot the day I bought the shares. I commented on the monthly chart that this stock could trade sideways even longer. Sometimes with these bottoming patterns, you’ll find that there are a few false takeoffs before it really takes off. My hope is that it continues to trade sideways for longer, offering even more entry opportunities to add to the position. That way, if and when it does take off, the upward move will have a better chance of being sustained even longer.

The market didn’t budge much this week and I don’t expect it will next week. Trade volume between Christmas and the new year is usually quite low. There might be a bit of selling, but I don’t plan on making any trade decisions within the next week.


Already people are posting with glee that they’re on vacation. I wish you all happy and safe holidays! I hope to catch up again next week when I’ll be in Vancouver. 

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Travel Costs

 

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Playa Beisanz

 

Total Cost of the Best Trip Ever: $2400


Total Airfare for Two: $770

This covered two roundtrip tickets with Copa Airlines from November 28 – December 5. We booked through Canadian Fares online. I know that this was likely cheaper because the dates fell before peak season.

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Meal on Copa Airlines

Copa Air was impressive – flying with them took me back to how things were before food and alcohol became additional. We were shocked when they came out with the drinks – including alcohol – near the start and end of the flight. I got so nostalgic that I just went for the guava juice – something I hadn’t had since I was a kid. Then came the meals! I had to pinch myself. I haven’t eaten anything on a flight without whipping out my credit card in years.

Another plus side when booking with Copa: When you leave Costa Rica, you apparently have to pay a departure tax of $29 USD. This fee was included in the airfare. There are a few airlines that will automatically include this fee in the price and Copa is one of them. Otherwise, if you don’t have US cash or the Costa Rican equivalent to pay at the airport, you pay this tax at the booth by a cash advance on your credit card. Oh, and we didn’t have to pay for our checked baggage.

The only downside to this airline was having Barry Manilow’s song, “Copacabana,” earworm its way into my head for the entire flight going there and back.


Park ‘n’ Fly: $185

Our flight was at 8 AM. It made the most sense for us to stay at a hotel where we could park our car for eight days while we were away. With such an early departure and late arrival, I appreciated being shuttled to and from the airport. We usually book our park ‘n’ fly using points, but this was more of a last minute booking and we couldn’t swing it this time around.


Manulife Travel Insurance: $48

This covered the two of us. Neither of us is covered by any insurance plans at work, many of which also includes basic travel insurance.

There were times in the past when I thought travel insurance was a waste of money…until the one time I needed it and it was totally worth it. The insurance covered all the costly medical bills for this one unexpected incident.


Total cost of Airbnb: $327

We went on this trip for three reasons: 1) We always wanted to go to Costa Rica, 2) We wanted to have a warm getaway, and 3) JP and I are considering buying property somewhere nice and warm.

We decided to check out a place that was easy enough to get to near a lot of beaches. That way, if we bought a property that was accessible and attractive to many tourists, it would be easy to rent out on Airbnb. We settled for the town of Herradura, which is near the locals hangout, Herradura Beach, the bachelor party capital, Jaco Beach, and the surfer-covered Hermosa Beach. We booked a house through AirBnB which was a quick drive from all those places.

It was our first time booking anything through Airbnb. What an experience! We made friends with the neighbours and had them over on most nights where we shared food and drinks. They even took us on a hike through a river to these local waterfalls. They showed us around some resorts, beaches, bars, etc. I’m sure that’s not what usually happens with Airbnb and that this was more of a unique opportunity to make new friends.


Car rental: $258

We booked through Dollar in Costa Rica ahead of time, snatching the best online deal we could find. There are a number of car rental desks at the airport where they shuttle you to their actual locations off-site, as there is no spot for them at the San Jose airport.

We got a basic car with basic insurance. They tried to pressure JP into getting the premium insurance plan, but he wouldn’t budge. The guy became a bit of a prick after we said no! Apparently, all the cars in Costa Rica are standard. (Really?) The driving there is more aggressive in that there is no room for hesitation. JP really liked driving there!


Duty-Free Booze: $98

20171209_1330461036299762.jpgOn the way to Costa Rica, our stopover was at the Panama Airport. The next time we head to this area, we are definitely going to Panama! Well, we were drawn to all the duty-free stores glowing with enormous bottles of rum and tequila. We didn’t know how hard/easy it would be to find alcohol in CR when we arrived in the evening. We shopped around and bought a bottle of rum ($17 USD) and one of tequila ($24 USD) equal to $53.76 CAD. On the way back to Canada, we bought two big bottles of rum ($34 USD = $44.35 CAD). We just knew we couldn’t find bottles of this size and price back home. We paid with credit card both times.


Cash for food, gas, etc: $588 = ₡240,000

We read that most places only took cash. Credit cards could be used at more expensive places and you could still be charged extra transaction fees for using it. We figured to bring about $600 worth of CR Colones. We ordered the currency from our bank. The exchange rate with them was much better than at an exchange house. We just had to wait almost a week for the money to arrive (which came the day before we left!).

On our way to our accommodation, we stopped over at some food stands and stores to load up with enough chow to tide us over the next few days. We bought tropical fruits, tomatoes, beans, nuts, and rice. We nearly fell over after we figured that the few bags we purchased amounted to $80. The food prices in Costa Rica rival Japan’s. I mean, I have never tasted more exquisite avocados and pineapples, but come on! However, alcohol is much less expensive there. On most days we ate a lot of fruit and made our own meals. The place we stayed at had a great kitchen where JP whipped up the best dishes.

We allowed ourselves a couple of extravagant days when we bought day passes to hang out at a nearby resort which gave us access to the poolside bar/restaurant and beach. A pass cost us $30 USD each.

After a week in Costa Rica, we blew through most of our cash. We had enough to refill the gas tank before returning the car to the rental agency. With all the driving we did, including a day trip to Manuel Antonio in the south, we used only one tank of gas. Filling it up cost around $45 CAD. We gave the remainder of our colones to the shuttle driver who took us to the airport.


Roaming: $96

We paid $10 a day for data. We needed to navigate a lot on Google maps. Fun fact: They don’t use addresses in Costa Rica! Everyone uses landmarks. There were a couple of days when we didn’t need data, but I forgot to put my phone on airplane mode before midnight.  Before leaving, I also had to make a phone call from Canada to the caretaker of the house to arrange for the key exchange.


If you added the food we bought at the airport while waiting to depart in Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica, it comes to another $25 CAD. All told that is about $2400 or $1200 per person. Not bad for one of the most incredible trips I have ever taken. We went to four different beaches, witnessed the most stunning sunsets, saw so much wildlife, made new friends, and learned so much about that amazing country. Would we consider buying property there? Claro que si!

 

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Playa Herradura

 

The Transparent RRSP: Vacay

The week of November 27
  • I deposited $150 into the RRSP ahead of December. There is $351.89 cash in the RRSP account.

JP and I are going away for a week to Costa Rica (we’re going to the Pacific side). We decided to only bring our tablet and phones. Neither of us has plans to trade while we’re away. Our main focus is to relax, enjoy the warm weather, check out the real estate situation there, and read and swim at the beach. I might squeeze in some study time whenever I can. Derivatives and options have my brain turned in on itself – to take a week off could mean excruciating reviewing when I return.

The airfare was too hard to turn down: $770 CAD for both our tickets! Yes, we’re travelling at a time when the weather isn’t totally unbearable in Ontario yet. We do, however, plan to go to Florida in late February. That’s usually when the cabin fever is at its most intense and could use a warm disruption. Before I take off, I must, of course, look at the markets.


 

November markets

SPY, QQQ, DIA, XIU ETF charts on freestockcharts.com

 

I don’t know how the market will trade after the US Thanksgiving holiday. December could be positive because of a stronger retail sector around this time. The bearish correction in the fall that I was bracing/hoping for never came. (And that is why we trade the trend, even if we don’t believe it’s still there.)

The trade volume in the US markets seems to be coming down while the prices are going up. The confluence of those two factors often means that: 1) savvy investors start to take profits, and 2) the public starts asking those investors if it’s a good time to buy Apple. The best thing to do is wait for 3) to happen, which is an actual correction.

I was in the Caribbean on my first and last cruise in early 2015 when this happened:

Caribbean

XIC ETF on freestockcharts.com

When JP and I checked our email for the most expensive 10 minutes of our lives, we also checked the markets. At the time, we were only day trading, which meant we were holding no positions in our accounts. Although we weren’t losing money, we figured good opportunities would be short-lived. We were concerned about entering a more hostile trading environment in which small fish like us would get eaten by the bigger, well-funded fish.

After we returned and got our sea legs back, we looked at Canadian companies that traded on both Canadian and US stock exchanges. We discovered they were CHEAP. We bought just a few to hold long term and had a gangbuster year. I doubt the market will do that in the week that we’re gone. Perhaps next January?


I have some stock charts worth checking out:

  • FIRE.V (New and risky, but cheap. Take fewer shares.)
  • IMH.V (Same as above.)
  • TCW.TO
  • SSL.TO (I already have this in my RRSP.)
  • SMF.TO

Please check the company, the sector, the earnings, the market, and the fundamentals that you think are important. Always do your due diligence to trade with confidence while respecting your risk tolerance. I do think that the market could pull back early in the new year. You could wait until then before buying or take fewer shares now and more later.