There is strong evidence that high levels of short selling are associated with lower future returns and this return predictability suggests that short sellers, on average, have an information advantage over other traders (e.g., Senchack and Starks, 1993; Asquith, Pathak, and Ritter, 2005; Boehmer, Jones, and Zhang, 2008). However, while return predictability suggests that short sellers have an information advantage, it says little about the source of this advantage. In our forthcoming Journal of Financial Economics paper, How Are Shorts Informed? Short Sellers, News, and Information Processing, we ask how short sellers obtain an information advantage.
During the financial crisis in 2008, some regulators and journalists accused short sellers of illegitimate trading practices. In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) suggested that short sellers spread “false rumors” in an effort to manipulate firms “uniquely vulnerable to panic.” However, in contrast to this manipulation hypothesis, we find that a substantial portion of short sellers’ trading advantage comes from their ability to analyze publicly available information. These findings suggest that, on average, short sellers do not manipulate prices, but rather, they help prices incorporate pertinent information.read more