ASX Short Sale Positions

Daily update on all companies

Background

The goal of this page is to better inform ASX investors of short selling in the market.

Although short position data does not provide tradable signals, a large increase or decrease in a company’s short positions can be an early indicator of changing investor sentiment. It can also be used to uncover what the “professional money” is doing.

To see how short selling allows investors to profit from a falling market, read the "What is Short Selling?" tutorial under the table.

Short Sale Data

Short sale data shows the amount of shares on issue currently reported as short sold.

The data is four trading days behind today's date as reporting isn’t mandatory until 9am (Sydney) three business days (T+3) post trade.

Since June 2010 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has required all stockbrokers to report their total short sale positions daily. This information is released four business days (T+4) after the trade on ASIC’s website.

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) publishes a list of short sale transactions reported on the most recent trading day.

Open ASX Short Positions

Data: 02 Dec 2021

What is Short Selling?

Short selling is one of the most difficult concepts for novice investors to grasp.

The goal is to profit from a falling market by “borrowing” shares in a company to sell at the current market price, and buy those shares back at a later date after the price has fallen. The difference between the initial sell price and the later buyback price is the profit.

The easiest way to grasp the concept is to compare it with traditional share investment.

Long (Buy)

Going “long” is the traditional way of investing in the stock market; you profit when the share price goes up.

  • You believe a companies share price will rise
  • You buy shares at $40
  • The share price rises to $54
  • You sell the shares for a profit of $14 per share
Chart of a Long Buy

Short (Sell)

Going “short” is the opposite; you profit when the share price goes down.

  • You believe a companies share price will fall
  • You sell 1,000 "borrowed" shares at $58
  • The share price falls to $42
  • You buy 1,000 shares (to close the trade) at $42
  • You made a profit of $16 per share
Chart of a Short Sale

How can you sell shares you don’t own?

The most common way is called “Covered Short Selling” and it involves “borrowing” the shares from someone else (organised by your stockbroker).

To open a trade: You borrow shares and sell them at the current market price.

To close the trade: You buyback the same number of shares and return them to the original shareholder.

Another way is to “Naked Short Sell” and it involves a stockbroker placing a sell order on your behalf, even though you haven't borrowed any shares (hence the term "naked"). To close the trade you must buy back the exact number of shares that you originally sold.

Remember that everything is done on a computer. You’re not actually buying and selling a tangible asset; all that’s required is that the numbers in the regulator’s computer “even out” at the end.

Why would someone allow their stock to be short sold? Lenders can charge a borrowing fee which is passed on to the short seller. This is also why short sale positions tend to be shorter in investment duration than long trades.

Short Selling Advantages

1. Profit in a falling market

You can make money when share prices are falling.

2. Hedge your portfolio to reduce drawdown

A portfolio can be hedged with “short” positions to reduce drawdowns in down trending markets. Should the stock market turn negative, any profit made in the “short” trades will help counteract the losses made in the long trades.

Disadvantages

1. Difficulty to participate

Few Australian stockbrokers have the ability to short sell and those that do often have many obstacles. Additional paperwork, collateral requirements, pre-authorisation per trade, higher fees and a minimum trade size of $50,000 may be set.

2. Risk is unlimited

With traditional share investment your risk is limited to the amount you spent on the initial purchase (a share price can’t go below zero). With short selling a trade isn’t closed until you buyback the original number of shares sold, so your risk is unlimited (there is not upper limit to how high a share price can go).

For example, in 2008 Volkswagen was involved in a massive short-squeeze.

Short sellers panicked because the share price was rising and they were losing money. To close their trades they needed to buyback the original number of shares they sold.

A "snowball" effect ensued with all short sellers trying to close their trades at the same time, driving the share price even higher.

The Volkswagen share price rose from €200 to over €1,000 in just over a month.

Short Squeeze Chart

3. Limited number of approved ASX companies to sell

There is a limited number of ASX companies that are allowed to be sold short. Leveraged equities publish a list of approved companies along with the collateral requirements.

Why is Short Selling Allowed?

Short selling provides liquidity and brings price efficiency into the market.

In 2008, ASIC placed stricter controls on covered short selling and banned naked short selling outright in an attempt to bring order to the market turmoil. Although it could easily be argued that the ban reduced fear and reduced the number of people “sitting on the sidelines”, studies have found that the consequence was higher volatility and decreased liquidity.

How to "Go Short" in Australia

Short selling ASX companies should only be conducted by experienced investors. You will need to shop around for a stockbroker who is able to facilitate short trades.

Alternatively, you can profit from a falling market by purchasing an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) that specialises in short selling.

BetaShares Logo

BetaShares Australian Equities Bear Hedge Fund (BEAR) is an ETF that can be bought and sold just like ordinary shares with no extra paperwork, fees or obstacles. The fund short sells ASX SPI 200 futures contracts so that any fall in the S&P/ASX 200 index will result in an increase in the fund’s value. Therefore, the share price of BEAR ETF will rise if the stock market falls.

Using an ETF like the BEAR is a great way for the average investor to profit from, or protect against a fall in the overall Australian stock market.

Additional Links

Short Selling Regulatory Guide 196 (PDF) - ASIC’s detailed guide

Short Selling Reporting Obligations in Australia (PDF) - A law firm’s excellent summary