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History of Short Selling: How it all Started & Developed

Dutch Tulip Field with windmills
A short sale is a trading strategy that speculates on the decline of stock prices and other securities used by traders to hedge against downside risks. It opens a position by borrowing stock shares that an investor believes will fall in price, then he sells the stock at prices a buyer is willing to pay or at the market price. If the stock falls after selling, the short seller repurchases it at a lower price and returns it to the lender. Here are details to help you understand stock selling operations.

The First Known Significant Short-selling
The history of short selling draws back in the ancient time where tulips were seen as beautiful treasures used to display well-educated individuals, of the merchant class. The story of the first stock ever shorted relates to the Tulip mania intriguing tales covering the first major financial bubble in the 17th century. When most people think about the Netherlands, they associate it with the Dutch golden age of the 17th century, where the republic recorded a tremendous growth in the economy and became a leading financial, trade and military power across Europe. At this time, the prices and demand for a tulip bulb shot extraordinarily then dramatically collapsed.
Red and White Tulip: Closeup
Everyone in the Netherlands got involved with the trade in a phenomenal of pure greed where nobody wanted the tulips but were very interested in the profits. Sometimes they could trade the tulip for up to 10 times a day since it was a newly introduced and luxurious product in a country that focused on expanding its trade and network. As the value increased, traders began to push their prices into unprecedented heights such that the average rate of a single flower exceeded the annual income of some skilled workers or some houses cost at the time. The prices rose even higher since they got rare, but it wasn't irrational to pay very high prices for a product that would also sell better.
Trade grew relatively calm and was carried out in taverns and neighborhoods rather than on a stock exchange. Companies set various towns apart to produce, buy, and sell tulips and even designated a committee to oversee the operations. With the increasing tulip trade, businesses got restricted by seasons since they could only exchange during summer. However, a new trend of trade arose where they started trading on futures contracts, which allowed year-round trading of the bulb without a material base, which lead to the bubble foundation. More people joined the trade with the hope of buying the contracts and selling them later on profit.
In February 1637, the bubble burst and tulip deal came crashing down, leaving only the legends, and most tulip holders went bankrupt. The crash occurred due to the unsuitability of the rising prices and fears of oversupply. Since no bulbs were available for exchange, they were all planted, those who lost money did it notionally, they could not get paid later. However, anyone who had sold or bought tulips earlier had lost nothing; only those waiting for payment bore the loss.

Tulip market
How the Shorting Appeared on the Stock Markets in New York
The history of short selling in New York is similar to that of the Dutch Republic, but it didn't last long before the state decided to outlaw the practice. In the 1850s, the United States' economic status was quite unstable as the country was under a complete boom-burst cycle. In an attempt to mute the speculations, the New York legislature tried to ban shorting unsuccessfully since the stock exchange was smaller. By the late 1850s, the short-selling ban got lifted, which made it easier for the speculators to move markets.
The innovations like telegram made it easier to trade all over the nation, and the ticker tape invention streamed stock quotes from the New York Stock Exchange. The boom of the short-selling was during the growth face of the US economy at the rise of railroads. The rail investment needed significant capital, and the savvy financiers had to find funding alternatives. The financers were very competitive and would do anything to get money so they could manipulate the market by driving up the stock price. The stock would then achieve a high valuation, which appeared as an excellent chance for short sellers to make money out of the collapsing stock.
However, the rail financers would always try to corner the market, and whenever a short seller attempted to cover the big short, he would get no share to do it. One of the barons, Daniel Drew, believed that he who sells what isn't his must pay it back or go to prison. Drew controlled the rail company and poorly managed the stock though he still shorted the company's funds to make huge profits. He later met Jay, who was interested in creating a fortune by shorting stocks who quickly became profitable and parlayed his funds from his businesses to invest in hiding futures.

Going Long on CFD trade
You can choose to go long with CFDs by using a buy order as your opening trade since there is an anticipation of price rise that you'll sell to close your position. While going long with CFDs, you do not necessarily require having sufficient money to purchase the asset since the margin depends on your broker or what you are trading. For instance, if you go long on 1000 shares of ABC, it will cost $10,000, which you can, in turn, sell shares at $10.20 to get $10200 and earn a profit of $200 minus commissions. It's the desired outcome when going long since your profit potential is unlimited, as asset price may rise indefinitely.

Is Short Selling Unethical?
No, short selling is a legal money-making strategy where one profits from falling shares. It prevents the market's volatility and is the first line of defense against financial fraud to help drive down overpriced securities. Investors have proved to rely on short sellers rather than auditors or the government to expose bad companies. Despite appearing harsh on long-term investors, it opens opportunities to invest at relatively low levels. Investors also consider it as a hedging strategy for providing a critical role in risk management.

Benefits of Short Selling
Once you decide to short sell, you are at a higher chance of gaining profits even when markets are going down. It allows you to minimize the risk that other traders have to undergo in buying and selling instruments instead of gaining from the fluctuations. You also have access to tools without owning them, which would be difficult to trade. Additionally, it helps you to take charge of investments when short selling through the use of different market orders.

Financial institutions reap benefits from short sellers as they are aware of the resources and efforts put in observing the market. In their search, they can discover questionable practices or accounting errors in overvalued ventures before the fair. It helps to improve market liquidity and efficiency, which facilitates price regulation, find fraud, prevent financial bubble, and expose firms with too high stock prices.
Investors use short selling as a tool to realize capital gains and also protect their portfolio by hedging against market corrections on the shorted stock even when markets are failing. It helps investors hedge their bets to protect traders from losses.

The Risks of Short Selling
Short selling offers you fast profits, but it's can also get risky since it runs counter to the goal of most investors. Many consider it an advanced mechanism that should be undertaken by experienced traders due to the possible financial disasters involved. One primary risk is that there isn't any accurate way of predicting when stocks will fall as the value placed on a share does not always match their metrics. You may end up losing your money if prices rise as many short sellers try to cover their positions in the stock, thereby driving up prices. The scenario is referred to as a ”short squeeze”, which happens if stock owners move their margins to their accounts, reducing the availability of stock, which forces brokers to purchase shorted shares at the expense of account holders.
You risk paying more or buying stocks without your consent in cases of adverse conditions when stock prices rise since you don't have full control of a short sale. In a case where capital is hard to borrow, you may be at risk of paying interest to acquire the stock and any dividend involved. Also, you receive the cash upfront since you are restarting a sale to return the shares to the lowest price possible, which is the opposite of what we are accustomed to. You are at risk of paying dividends for holding onto securities that can eat into your profits because the broker who lent you shares will wait until you close your position by buying and returning the shares.
You could also lose if you fail to abide by the rules of your margin agreement with a broker; if this happens, you might get a margin call to take the value of your account to the limit. The broker can do some remedial measures according to your agreement and do a buy-in or sell securities in your account without any consultations. In a case where the stock lender fails to get additional shares, they may decide to take back the shares they lend you, and you will have to buy more stocks in the open market. You also need to be cautious when short selling investments from big corporations since you may lose money if the value increases.

Differences Between Modern and Traditional Short-selling
The main difference is that traditionally, you could only buy and sell shares on an exchange in a company whereas; CFDs trading operates on market price speculation without taking ownership of the underlying asset. The costs in CFD trading require you to pay only a fraction of the value of your trade to access a position in the stocks, but buying shares needed that you pay the whole amount upfront. CFD is more flexible since you can trade for the day, intra-day, or medium-term as compared to the traditional trading where it's only suitable in the long run. CFDs also give you the freedom to trade a variety of financial instruments from forex, shares, and commodities to indices. Still, share trading is restricted to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and stocks.

Traditionally, we were only used to trading on the rising price shares, but you can use CFDs to hedge your share position to go short or long on a market's direction. It also means that you are limited to trading during stock exchange opening hours only, but with CFDs, you can trade round the clock on several markets. When it comes to dividends in share trading, you receive them once they get paid, but in short selling, positions are adjusted to offset any changes from dividends.

If you decide to go the traditional way, you will pay capital gains on any profit and stamp duty on each investment, that doesn't apply in CFDs trading since you don't own the underlying asset. The settlement period for shares can take between two to three working days to get to your account after the transaction as opposed to short selling where payment gets settled immediately. You can also practice risk-free trading using virtual funds on demo accounts in CFDs trading, which is usually not common in share trading. The only privilege where short selling traders feel left out is that they don't enjoy entitlement on voting rights on company issues since they don't have physical ownership of shares.

Short selling provides an excellent opportunity for most traders to play on both sides of the market, increasing their chances of getting a market strategy that works best for them. Today, many investors make high profits from bull markets by investing in companies they expect to grow based on their predictive views. There is no limit to how much you can learn about the big short-selling ideas, but the above guidelines show a clear history and relevant information to shine light in short selling strategies.