Does E*TRADE offer short selling on stocks and ETFs? How to sell short on E*TRADE. Fees and requirements in 2023.

How to Sell Stock Short on E*TRADE

While most traditional portfolios consist of only long positions, some strategies try to profit by also being able to identify and bet against stocks that are perceived to be overvalued. The popularity of so-called long/short strategies has been growing because, in theory, it offers more opportunities to profit by capitalizing from market mispricing on both ends of the spectrum.

This article will show you how you can enter into short positions in your E*TRADE account.

What is Short Selling?

When you short sell a stock you are betting that its price will go down. Once you place a “sell-short” order on E*TRADE you are basically selling shares in the stock that you have borrowed from someone else who owns them. When you enter a buy-to-cover order to close your short position you are buying the shares back from the market (hopefully at a lower price) so they can be returned to the lender. E*TRADE manages the logistics by locating shares for you to borrow behind the scenes so that from your perspective placing a sell-short order is as easy as entering a long position with a buy.

What Are E*TRADE’s Rules on Short Selling?

Most brokers, E*TRADE included, require you to have a margin account with at least $2,000 in order to be able to short stocks.

In order for you to be able to short a stock, E*TRADE must also be able to locate the shares to borrow. Even after the short is initiated, there is no guarantee E*TRADE will be able to let you keep it open indefinitely shares become harder to borrow.

E*TRADE, just like TD Ameritrade and most brokers, does not allow shorting of OTC or penny stocks.

Placing a Short Sell on E*TRADE

Placing a short sell order on E*TRADE is very similar to placing a standard sell order except you will select “Sell-Short” for the action, and after the trade is executed the proceeds from the short sale will not be available for you to use.

Etrade Short Stock

E*TRADE Short Selling Fees

The commission E*TRADE charges you would be the same as placing a long buy or sell order: $0.

E*TRADE Short Selling Interest Rates

Because you are effectively selling borrowed shares, E*TRADE will charge you interest depending on how much cash and marginable securities you have in your account to serve as collateral.

Margin interest may be owed on short sales at E*TRADE. The broker’s interest rates vary from 9.95% to 13.45%, depending on the amount owed. Stocks that are hard-to-borrow could be subject to additional fees. Many firms charge less for margin - see Broker Margin Rates.

Alternative For Short Sellers

For short traders, a good alternative broker is TD Ameritrade. It has a number of advantages: richer selection of shortable products, the best trading tools, and paper trading. Learn more...

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Marking to Market

As the price of the shorted stock moves (either with or against your trade) E*TRADE will reflect this as either an unrealized gain or loss in your account by marking your shorts to market at the close of each trading day. If the stock price rises sharply from where you shorted it and you therefore have a large unrealized loss, you may receive a margin call requiring you to post additional cash or marginable securities to your account in order to keep the position open. In theory, you could be forced to close your short position with little notice, which is why your broker requires a sufficient balance in your account to buy these shares back at market price each day.

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How Do I Close My Short Position?

When you are ready to close, or cover, your short position on E*TRADE, you will simply create a “Buy-to-Cover” order for the shares you shorted. Once the order is executed, any unrealized gain or loss on the position will become realized.

Etrade Buy To Cover

Risks of Short Selling

In addition to the standard risks of investing/trading in the stock market, shorting stocks carries some additional risks. Most significant of these is that your potential losses on a short position are unlimited (since there is no limit to how high a stock price can go) whereas if you buy a stock the most you can lose is your initial investment. Secondly, E*TRADE can’t guarantee they’ll be able to borrow shares indefinitely and so you could be forced to close your short position earlier than you planned.


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