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Short Selling with Margin Risk and Recall Risk

Kristoffer Glover and Hardy Hulley

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Abstract: Short sales are regarded as negative purchases in textbook asset pricing theory. In reality, however, the symmetry between purchases and short sales is broken by a variety of costs and risks peculiar to the latter. We formulate an optimal stopping model in which the decision to cover a short position is affected by two short sale-specific frictions---margin risk and recall risk. Margin risk refers to the fact that short sales are collateralised transactions, which means that short sellers may be forced to close out their positions involuntarily if they cannot fund margin calls. Recall risk refers to a peculiarity of the stock lending market, which permits lenders to recall borrowed stock at any time, once again triggering involuntary close-outs. We examine the effect of these frictions on the optimal close-out strategy and quantify the loss of value resulting from each. Our results show that realistic short selling constraints have a dramatic impact on the optimal behaviour of a short seller, and are responsible for a substantial loss of value relative to the first-best situation without them. This has implications for many familiar no-arbitrage identities, which are predicated on the assumption of unfettered short selling.

Date: 2019-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-fmk
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