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I want to short several hundred shares of a stock.

Wells Fargo brokerage has no shares to short. Would a different brokerage be likely to have access to shortable shares, or do they all access the same pool?

How would I find out who has shortable shares?

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    FYI I removed reference to ANGI. This is a great question and by removing the specific stock reference, it won't become dated if/when Wells Fargo gets some shares available for a short. – Alex B Feb 29 '12 at 18:28
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    @Alex B - Mixed feelings about that: the reference to ANGI may damage the usable lifetime of the question, but is also extremely relevant to the question because ANGI is a recent small-cap social-media IPO stock, and those characteristics are in fact probably exactly why the brokerage doesn't have the shares available... – fennec Feb 29 '12 at 22:53
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    @fennec - What do you think about "I want to short several hundred shares of a small-cap, recent IPO stock." ?? Do you feel that captures the question better? – Alex B Mar 6 '12 at 23:01
  • It is not specific to Wells Fargo.a lot of discount brokerages don't have shares available for shorting even for highly liquid stocks. – Victor123 Mar 27 '15 at 22:30
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This is the bird's eye view of how shorting works: When you place an order to sell a stock short, your broker attempts to grab the desired number of shares from any accounts of its other customers and makes them available for you to sell. If no other customers own shares of this stock, then generally you are out of luck (It is more complicated like that in practice, but this is just an overview).

Your odds are better if the particular stock has a large float (i.e. a large number of shares that are actually available for trading) and its short ratio is low (which means relatively few shares are currently being sold short). Also, a large brokerage may be more likely to have access to the shares than a small niche-market broker.

The example you've given, Angie's List (ANGI) is a $600M small-cap with a comparatively low float, and though I haven't been able to glean the short ratio, it appears that a lot of investors are bearish on this stock and probably already had the same idea to short it.

There is really no way to find out if a specific broker has shares in inventory available for shorting, short of (forgive the pun) checking directly with the broker.

  • Most brokerages also base availability of the shares on margin accounts. So if another client has purchased shares on margin, those may be the shares a broker will allow to be shorted. Especially if the current owner is on a margin call because it kills two birds with one stone. – Matt Phillips Mar 1 '12 at 2:50

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