Elon Musk got what he really wanted out of the GameStop bubble and he didn’t have to invest a penny


The practice of shorting stocks has been getting a lot of heat recently from across the political spectrum, much of it revealing a profound misunderstanding of how betting against the market works and why it's not a bad thing. Here Michael Hiltzik covers the basics.

How short selling works

A quick primer on short selling is perhaps in order here.

Short sellers honor the Wall Street mantra to buy low and sell high, but they do so in reverse order. First, they sell high, by borrowing stock from shareholders and selling it. Second, they buy low, by picking up shares at a lower price and returning them to the lenders.

Obviously, for this method to work, the shares must decline in price. That’s what short sellers are betting on. So they’re constantly searching for companies that are overvalued, whether because their business models have flaws unsuspected by investors, or they’re havens for fraud (think Enron), or any other reason.

This makes shorts very unpopular among corporate managements, which prefer that the investment community focus on their upside and swallow their optimistic press releases uncritically, rather than pointing out the downside.

Some executives get downright childish about it, such as Elon Musk, who revels in how shares in his Tesla electric car company have remained buoyant despite short sellers pointing out that it (Read more...)