Operational Shorting and ETF Liquidity Provision
89 Pages Posted: 3 May 2017 Last revised: 4 Aug 2022
Date Written: June 30, 2022
Due to a regulatory exemption, ETF market makers can satisfy excess demand in secondary markets by selling ETF shares that have not yet been created. While this ability to “operationally short” is not unique to ETFs, it plays a more prominent role in ETF liquidity provision, and results in elevated ETF failures-to-deliver. We propose a novel measure for “operational shorting” and show it is associated with improved liquidity and greater price efficiency in the ETF underlying securities. Higher retail trading activity and short-term return reversals are also consistent with liquidity-supplying motives rather than informed trading. Consequently, delayed ETF creation to cover operational shorts is found to be a valuable option in the presence of retail trading and liquidity mismatches between the ETF and its underlying securities.
Keywords: Exchange-Traded Funds, Authorized Participants, Short-Selling, Failure to Deliver, Liquidity, Retail Trading, Market Making
JEL Classification: G1, G12, G14, G23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation