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Money managers under the microscope

Caught short


Short-sellers have taken a lot of flak during the credit crisis, particularly last year when the slump in banks’ share prices eventually prompted the FSA and other regulators to temporarily halt the practice among financial stocks.

rtr24tfuHowever, it is worth remembering that for all the headlines of huge profits made by John Paulson and others, the practice is not a guaranteed winner and can result in painful losses.

SWIP investment director James Clunie – who is setting up a fund that can short and whose book on short-selling entitled “Predatory Trading and Crowded Exits” is published next month — sees dilemmas for short-sellers, even in stocks that fall.   

“In general, heavily shorted stocks do tend to underperform but the distribution is skewed. Every now and then there are big losses,” he tells me, adding this makes the practice harder to stomach for funds unwilling to take losses.