Long Vs Short trade in stock market – What is the difference

You might have heard about the term short and long in stock market trading. These terms are referring to how the trade is initiated. It can be confusing for beginners to understand what these terms means, so in this article, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about what long and short trade means.

What is Short trade

Short trade is also referred to as shorting a stock, short selling or going short. Short trade strategy is used when stock prices fall. You make money by selling high and then buying low.

To start short selling, you need to have a margin account with the broker. Therefore, you need to understand the terms and conditions of your broker before getting into selling short.

Process of short trade

Selling short is done by following 4 easy steps;

  • You inform your stockbroker for short selling. Stock and number of shares to be informed along with other details based on situation.
  • Your broker borrows the required number of shares from his own inventory or from another client.
  • Your broker then sells the stock at current market price to give you money in your account. The amount credited will work like a loan. You need to pay interest and other costs associated as per the terms and conditions of your broker.
  • You buy the stock at a lower price and return the required number of stock back to the broker, who in turn will give it back to the original owner. By buying at a lower price, you make profit which is the difference between the amount credited as a loan minus the amount spent in buying stocks and expenses incurred.

In simpler terms, short trade means you are selling borrowed shares you don’t own in the hope of making profit when that stock’s price falls.

However, it has a flip side, there is no guarantee that stock prices will always go down as expected. If it goes up instead of going down, you will lose money as in such a scenario, you need to buy stock at a higher price to return it to the broker.

You will make a profit only if prices drop between the time you entered the agreement with your broker and when you deliver the stock back. 

That is why experts always suggest beginners to go long. If you have chosen a wrong stock while going long, you can at best lose 100% of your capital invested. But, in short selling, if the trade is not in your favour, you may lose more than 100% of the money you invest. 

The potential for loss  is unlimited. However, you can use stop order to minimize your losses. For that you have to be an expert.

Short selling works well in a bear market.

What is short squeeze

Assume for a moment that a lot of people are short on a particular stock and the price of that stock is rising. In such a case, these short sellers will run to buy the stock back so that they can return it to the broker by minimising their loss.

This mass buying will move the share price up. It puts a squeeze on the investor who had been shorting the stock, also known as short squeeze.

People go for short selling only when they think that prices are going to go down.

The most important thing to remember is that the process of shorting might be relatively simple, but it’s not easy to implement as you need lots of experience to understand the market. Which means short trades is not a strategy for inexperienced traders.

If you are a beginner, then better to stay away from short selling. After getting enough experience you can try it.

What is Long trade

Most people in the stock market easily understand making money by going long. Going long means you are bullish and seeking your profits from rising prices. It means buy low and sell high.

In simpler terms, when you hear a person saying he is going long, it means that person will buy a stock and then wait for the price to go up in the future to realize profit. 

If someone says he is already long on a stock, it means he/she has bought the stock and now owns it with an expectation that the price will go up.

By contrast, if a trader is saying he is going short, it means that person will borrow those stocks from someone, sell it in the open market, then buy stocks back to return the original owner, but he/she does not own them.

The main objective is to sell the stock for a higher price than your purchase price and reap a profit.

In trading if you own something, it means you are considered to be long. In other words, in long trades, traders purchase securities and wait to sell them when prices go up. 

If a trader is going to own a security, then they may say they are “going long” or will “go long”.

When you go long, you will obviously expect the share price to rise in order to make profit. However on the flip side, share price may go down resulting in a loss for you. 

Going long is a bullish action of traders, which means they have a belief that stock price will rise in value.

Don’t get confused between short-term trading and short trade, both are different. When the duration between buying and selling of a stock ranges from a few days to a few weeks, it’s termed as short term trading. If the duration is a few months or years, it’s referred to as long-term trading.

A trader goes long when he thinks that the stock is relatively underpriced and prefers to short when stocks are deemed to be overpriced. In the financial market you can buy and then sell the stock or first sell and then buy.

is a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He lives in Bhubaneswar, India. He writes about personal finance, income tax, goods and services tax (GST), company law and other topics on finance. Follow him on facebook or instagram or twitter.