Short Selling ETFs
57 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2016 Last revised: 6 Sep 2019
Date Written: May 1, 2018
We provide novel evidence that arbitrageurs use exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as an avenue to circumvent short-sale constraints at the stock level. Using a large sample of U.S. equity ETF holdings, we document that shorting activity on ETFs rises with the difficulty of shorting the underlying stocks. Stocks that are heavily shorted via their holding ETFs underperform those lightly shorted by 90 basis points per month. The return predictability of ETF short selling on individual stocks is distinct from stock-level shorting measures, and is concentrated among stocks that face the most severe arbitrage constraints. Our evidence suggests that ETFs improve information efficiency by allowing arbitrageurs to target overpriced stocks that are otherwise difficult to short.
Keywords: ETFs, Short Selling, Equity Lending, Limits to Arbitrage, Market Efficiency
JEL Classification: G12, G14, G23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation