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.

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.

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.

Sector Action

The Canadian and U.S. markets closed strong this week. There was a bit of weakening on Wednesday, but some big moves for Microsoft and Amazon last night helped the NASDAQ as well as other tech stocks. The energy sector just had a strong couple of days which helped the rest of the market.

oils

Oil/energy ETFs HOU.TO and XEG.TO on freestockcharts.com

A lot of Canadian oil stocks were in play today. Here are a few:

  • RRX.TO
  • CPG.TO
  • CVE.TO
  • CFW.TO
  • TCW.TO
  • TOG.TO
  • ERF.TO

The charts for these either had good daily, weekly, or monthly charts – but none of them had great setups on all three of these timeframes. I decided to take a look at a couple of the energy ETFs, the HOU.TO and XEG.TO.

While it looks like the recent surge could take the sector higher, I checked to see if there is room to move up. The bullish move had already started in September, now nearing previous resistance as marked off on the charts. If the sector moves sideways a little longer with more buying and less selling, it could result in a more substantial move up.

This weekend, as you attend your costume parties and chat about the markets with your friends, try not to get too swept up in all the hype. It’s tempting to get really excited over all the market action that’s happened in the last while. Before you start buying up tech and energy stocks, watch how the market digests this over the next week or two.


39

Trading this Market

On Monday, JP went through all the Canadian stocks and gave me a list to check out. I went through it and thought the following were great charts:

  • RME.TO
  • FRU.TO (A royalty company.)
  • LCS.TO (A fund)

The next day, he asked me which one(s) I was going to buy. I told him none of them. He couldn’t believe I was just going to sit on a bunch of cash without investing it. Of course, I had some explaining to do. It was very simple: I didn’t like the market. I figured the market was going to offer hokey bullishness all week which it did, ending with a big hoorah day on Friday.

 

Market Monthlies

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

Here are the monthly charts for the Canadian XIU ETF, and the U.S. ETFs: the SPY (S&P 500), the QQQ (the NASDAQ), and the DIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average). There are seven trading days left in this month. If we close at new highs with lower volume, then I will happily wait for a correction next month.

I noted on the charts the months when we last saw a correction or a reset. On the DIA chart, I put a star over March 2017. Even though there wasn’t a proper sell-off/ correction, it consolidated and traded sideways for the following three months, which is often a good setup for another run.

Out of all of them, Canada’s XIU looks the best. If the U.S. markets undergo a correction, then trading Canadian stocks could be the next best play. I’d keep a close eye on the Canadian financial stocks, though, to see whether they reset or have a substantial sell-off that could weigh down the Canadian market.

For the rest of the week, JP kept asking me for my contribution of picks in return. I flat out declared I’d rather sit on cash than to buy anything right now. (Honestly, I was too lazy to look, but we both knew that.) He agreed that although the market looks overbought, sector rotation could keep it churning and that unless something fundamental changes in world economics (like a big war), we’re going to keep going.

I found some charts worth watching over the next week or two:

  • CCO.TO (Needs better setups on daily, weekly, and monthly timeframes.)
  • MX.TO (Could tighten up on the monthly, but decent daily and weekly charts.)
  • ALA.TO (Nice monthly, but it went up a lot already on the daily and weekly.)
  • ATZ.TO (I own this already. This must set up on all timeframes.)
  • H.TO (I own this already. The monthly chart is meh.)
  • DRT.TO (I own this already. The weekly isn’t that clean.)

JP’s picks definitely look better than mine. However, I feel these are worth watching as they had more recent corrections on the monthly timeframe. None of these have great patterns on all their daily, weekly, and monthly timeframes. I find that often when the pickings are slim, we’re due for a correction. By the time the correction or reset comes around, these picks could be even tighter. That’s the benefit of having cash ready and waiting in your account: you’ll be ready to go once the best opportunities are there. You can always afford to be patient.

 

 

 

 

 

The Transparent RRSP: Thanksliving Day Weekend

The week of October 2
  • On Oct 2, I bought 10 shares of ZPR.TO at $11.61. This cost me $116.10.
  • To my horror, I realized later on that I meant to buy 15 shares of ZPR, not just 10. So I ended up buying another 5 shares the next day at $11.67 a share (6 cents more!). This cost me $58.35. Aw phooey!
  • I would have bought more ZPR on Wednesday when I finally had more funds in the account, but the price was up higher by that point. Instead, I bought 15 shares of GRL.TO at $7.96 per share. This cost $119.55.

I have $37.92 in cash left in my RRSP.

GRL and ZPR

Price charts for GRL and ZPR on freestockcharts.com

I bought both of these stocks earlier this year. In early January, I got 50 shares of ZPR for $10.86 and 50 shares of GRL for $7.74 in mid-February. When you work out the average price, it looks like this:

ZPR

  • 50 shares @ $10.86 + $0.50 in commission* = $543.50
  • 10 shares @ $11.61 = $116.10
  • 5 shares @ $11.67 = $58.35
  • This totals to $717.95
  • Take the total cost of $717.95 and divide it by 65 shares. You get $11.05 a share for ZPR.

* I forgot to buy this under the “Free ETF Investment” commission structure with Virtual Brokers. I did remember to choose the correct commission structure this time around. At least I got one important thing right.

GRL

  • 50 shares @ $7.74 + $0.50 in commission = $387.50
  • 15 shares @ $7.96 + $0.15 in commission = $119.55
  • This totals to $507.05.
  • Divide $507.05 by 65 shares = $7.80 a share

Oh, what fun math can be! 

I really need to work this out for all the stocks I’ve averaged or scaled into. I scaled into a few of my other stocks last week — as I’ve been doing throughout the summer. I wish I could be a little more type A when it comes to tracking.

My new year’s resolution was to get more organized with tracking my trades. I still use post-it reminders occasionally. I now have two bulletin boards and a whiteboard to post better visual reminders for my trade ideas, upcoming strategies, and items that need attention. While I’ve made improvements in keeping up with things, I’m still floundering in the tracking department.


Thanksgiving Day 

Tomorrow my in-laws are coming to stay with us for a few days. They know it’s going to be a vegetarian ‘Thanksliving’ (the term courtesy of Jesse Eisenberg), so I’m sure they’re getting their turkey fill tonight with the other half of the family in Calgary before they fly in tomorrow.

I’ve got yummy Tofurky on the menu (don’t knock it until you try it) along with savoury kale chips, grilled veggies, dessert cookies, and other things that go well with good wine and craft beer. This may seem unappetizing to many, but we’re decent cooks for a couple of veg-heads and have yet to disappoint our guests. Cholesterol levels will not be spiking tomorrow!

I’ve got some cleaning and prep to do tonight so that tomorrow, I can trade in the morning for my US margin account as the US markets are open. Once I’m done trading, Thanksgiving cooking – and drinking – begin in the early afternoon.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

 

Stock Markets and Stock Picks

Marks

Monthly charts of market ETFs: XIU, DIA, SPY, QQQ on freestockcharts.com

The Markets

I typically like to analyze the XIC ETF as it consists of more TSX stocks. The XIC is very much like the SPY ETF for the S&P 500 index. When I want to know how the tech-focussed stocks are doing, I check out the QQQ.

I admit, I rarely look at the XIU (the TSX’s top 60 large cap stocks) or the DIA (the U.S. ETF for the Dow Jones Industrial Average). It’s an old habit of mine as my trading background was more focussed on shorter timeframes and bigger price action. There is less price action in these indexes that cover the large-cap, blue chippy stocks. Molasses moves faster than some of these stocks’ prices — this is because there are so many more shares to go through at each price level before the price moves up or down. Less price action, though, doesn’t mean less money. It’s just more stable. I really should watch these ETFs more because this is where big money, like funds, tends to go. With investing, it’s often good to follow the big money.

I drew horizontal lines on the charts for the XIU, DIA, and QQQ to show where those stocks had reset. The XIU has been “resetting” for a long while now, pretty much since February. The DIA (often called “the Diamonds”) had a reset in April and the Qs had one in July. Look at the SPY’s trendline that goes straight up. When is the SPY going to take a breather? If we’re going by season, then perhaps in the fall?

Observing the timing of these corrections demonstrates well the cyclical nature of markets. To get a better idea of what drives these differences means to take a closer look at the sectors and specific stocks that dominate their respective markets.

I worry that if the SPY makes a correction, it will affect the Canadian market. If I didn’t concern myself with the U.S. market at all, I have to say that I like what the charts tell me for the Canadian market. It’s been rationally pulling back for over half a year now and moving sideways for three months. It could be gearing up for another bullish move up. Let’s hope that if and when the SPY comes down, investors move into the Canadian stocks and start a new investment cycle.


Stocks to Check Out

Here are some stocks with nice-looking monthly charts:

  • TCW.TO
  • CVE.TO
  • SJR.B.TO
  • HSE.TO
  • IPL.TO
  • POU.TO
  • MG.TO
  • THCX.V (I own shares of this one already.)

Now, keep in mind, most of these are oil stocks. If you’re considering trading any of these, keep a close eye on the sector. And as I always advise, do your own necessary research on the company, the sector, and the markets. Consider how your choices fit into your grand plan and decide on the appropriate time horizons and how much you can safely risk for your portfolio.

The Transparent RRSP: Interest

Action taken the week of June 26
  • Transferred $150.00 into the RRSP. That gives me $170.90 in cash.

If I see anything that looks interesting, I’ll be ready to take action with some cash in the account again. I’ve been looking around and I found a few compelling charts. However, the market is just so uninspiring right now. I’d much rather wait for it to settle down before I do anything. It would be great if there was nothing to do until next month.

Another thing to note: If we raise interest rates sooner, that will greatly impact the market. I plan to consider, over the next week or so, some good trading/investing ideas.


July xic

XIC ETF in freestockcharts.com

Let’s look at the monthly chart of my favourite TSX index ETF, the XIC. I would like the market to pull back until the blue line. I mentioned in a previous blog that I’d like a market correction to come down to the same area we were at around November last year.

I think, though, that we’ll likely only pull back to the orange line, which is where we were at in December. This year so far, we had the heaviest selling volume in June. To get significantly below June’s levels we’d have to sell a lot more.

If interest rates do actually go up, a lot of sectors like retail and housing will be impacted. The financials, on the other hand, have been recovering since late May. Higher interest rates will be better for their business, especially after they’ve been running on low interest rates for so long.

I wrote previously that I think there’ll be a recovery in energy (oil) this summer – and I still think that. It’s worth considering swing trade opportunities in this sector as it could go up over the next few months to a year.

After a quick search, I noticed that the following stocks have had heavy selling volume the last few months:

  • SU.TO
  • PD.TO
  • CVE.TO
  • BTE.TO
  • ENB.TO
  • ECA.TO

If you feel conflicted about putting money into the yucky oil industry, you can just treat this as a study into my process when I look at sectors that have been beaten up. Here is a general run down of my process:

  • Watch the daily and weekly charts of stocks;
  • Look for signs of sideways trading;
  • Watch for reduction in trade volume. The volume should indicate less selling some more buying;
  • Check the monthly chart – it should look like a reversal is happening;
  • Compare all this to the sector ETFs;
  • Among the sector’s stocks, watch for the ones that are looking the best;
  • For swing trades, look at the strongest stocks that meet your criteria for entry, price, and trading ranges. In other words, figure out which ones that will give you the most bang for your buck.

I’ll share my ideas on this more recent trade idea and if I do take a trade, I will let you know. If this makes you nervous, then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy watching me fall flat on my face. I often go into trades thinking that I will do just that, but it’s exciting enough for me to take action. This mindset forces me to only risk enough so that I won’t be devastated if I’m totally wrong. Personally, it’s more devastating to not financially benefit from an idea I had that actually worked.