What are Short-Only Hedge Funds?

Jan Strandberg
August 4, 2021
5 min read

Hedge funds have been around for decades, and they have become a staple of the investment world. While most people have heard of traditional hedge funds, only a select few are familiar with short-only hedge funds. These funds are designed to profit from declining stock prices and can often generate substantial returns for investors. However, they come with significant risks, and it is essential to understand how they work before investing. In this guide, we will take a detailed look at short-only hedge funds and what you need to know before investing.

Understanding Short-Only Hedge Funds

Definition and Purpose

Short-only hedge funds are a type of investment fund that specialize in short selling stocks. In simple terms, short selling involves borrowing shares of a stock and selling them in the hopes of buying them back at a lower price to profit from the difference. This is the opposite of the traditional buying process where a stock is purchased, and the hope is that its price will go up.

The purpose of short-only hedge funds is to generate profits by betting on the decline of individual stocks or the market as a whole. By shorting stocks, the fund manager can make money even if the stock loses value.

Short-only hedge funds are generally considered to be more risky than traditional long-short hedge funds because they are betting against the market and individual stocks. However, they can also offer the potential for higher returns, making them an attractive option for investors who are willing to take on more risk.

How They Differ from Traditional Hedge Funds

The biggest difference between short-only hedge funds and traditional hedge funds is the investment strategy. Traditional hedge funds use long and short positions, whereas short-only hedge funds focus solely on short selling. Additionally, short-only hedge funds' performance is not necessarily correlated with the stock market's overall performance as they can make profits even when the market is falling.

While traditional hedge funds aim to generate absolute returns, short-only hedge funds focus on generating higher returns relative to the market. This makes them a popular investment option for investors who want to diversify their portfolios with non-correlated assets while potentially generating substantial returns.

It's important to note that short-only hedge funds are not suitable for all types of investors. They require a high level of expertise and experience to manage effectively, and investors should have a thorough understanding of the risks involved before investing.

The Role of Short-Only Hedge Funds in the Market

Short-only hedge funds play an important role in the financial markets. They provide liquidity and price discovery by betting against stocks that they believe are overvalued. This can cause the stock price to decline and potentially bring the market back to equilibrium. Additionally, short-only hedge funds can play a crucial role in detecting fraud and financial mismanagement by exposing companies with overinflated values or bloated financial statements.

Short-only hedge funds can also help to prevent market bubbles by identifying and betting against stocks that are overvalued. This can help to prevent a situation where stocks become overinflated and lead to a market crash.

Overall, short-only hedge funds are an important part of the financial markets and can offer investors the potential for high returns. However, they are not suitable for all types of investors and require a high level of expertise to manage effectively. As with any investment, investors should thoroughly research and understand the risks involved before investing in a short-only hedge fund.

The Mechanics of Short Selling

Borrowing and Selling Shares

Short selling is a trading strategy used by investors to profit from a decline in the price of a stock. It involves borrowing shares from a broker or another investor and selling them in the market. The hope is that the stock price will decline, allowing the fund manager to repurchase the shares at a lower price and return them to the lender, thus netting a profit.

Short selling is often used by hedge funds, which are investment funds that pool money from high net worth individuals and institutions to invest in a variety of assets. Hedge funds use short selling as a way to hedge their long positions, which are investments in stocks that they believe will increase in value over time.

Borrowing shares comes with a cost, known as the stock borrowing cost, which can significantly impact the fund's profitability. The stock borrowing cost is the fee that the lender charges for borrowing the shares. It is usually a percentage of the value of the shares borrowed and is paid by the borrower.

Covering the Short Position

To close a short position, a short-only hedge fund must buy shares in the market to replace the ones borrowed. If the stock price has gone down, the fund can buy the shares back at a lower price than they were sold for, generating a profit. However, if the stock price has risen, the fund will need to buy the shares back at a higher price, resulting in a loss.

The decision to close a short position is typically based on the fund manager's analysis of the stock's price movement and market conditions. If the fund manager believes that the stock price is likely to continue to decline, they may hold onto the short position to maximize profits. However, if the stock price starts to rise, the fund manager may decide to close the position to limit losses.

Risks and Rewards

Short-only hedge funds can generate substantial profits if implemented correctly. However, they come with significant risks. If the stock market is bullish, the fund may lose money as they are betting on a decline. Additionally, short selling is a high-risk strategy that can result in significant losses if the price of the stock rises instead of declining.

Short-only hedge funds are not for everyone and should only be considered by high net worth individuals and institutions who can absorb the potential losses. It is important to do thorough research and analysis before investing in a short-only hedge fund to understand the risks and rewards involved.

Overall, short selling can be a powerful tool for investors to profit from declining stock prices. However, it is important to use it wisely and with caution to avoid significant losses.

Strategies Employed by Short-Only Hedge Funds

Short-only hedge funds are unique in that they only profit when the market is declining. To achieve this, they employ various strategies, including fundamental short selling, technical short selling, event-driven short selling, and quantitative short selling.

Fundamental Short Selling

Fundamental short selling is one of the most popular short-selling strategies used by hedge funds. It involves betting against companies with overvalued stocks based on their financial statements, earnings reports, and other key indicators. This strategy can be risky as it requires the fund manager to assess the company's financial health and market competitiveness correctly.

However, when done right, fundamental short selling can be a highly profitable strategy. For example, if a company has been artificially inflating its earnings reports or hiding debt, a short seller can profit by betting against the stock and waiting for the truth to come out.

Technical Short Selling

Technical short selling involves identifying stocks that are overbought and have a high likelihood of declining based on their price charts, trendlines, and other technical indicators. This strategy involves analyzing a stock's historical price movements and identifying patterns that may indicate a potential drop in price.

Technical short selling can be a more objective strategy than fundamental short selling, as it relies on data and historical trends rather than subjective assessments of a company's financial health. However, it can also be more difficult to execute, as it requires a deep understanding of technical analysis and market trends.

Event-Driven Short Selling

Event-driven short selling involves betting against companies that have undergone a significant event such as a merger, acquisition, or product recall. These events can often cause a decline in the company's value, making them a target for short sellers.

For example, if a company announces a merger that is expected to be highly dilutive to shareholders, short sellers may bet against the stock, expecting a decline in value after the merger is completed.

Quantitative Short Selling

Quantitative short selling involves using quantitative analysis and statistical models to identify overvalued stocks. This strategy can be used to analyze large amounts of data and identify potential short-selling opportunities.

For example, a quantitative short seller may use a statistical model to identify companies that are trading at a high price-to-earnings ratio compared to their peers. They may then bet against these companies, expecting their stock prices to decline as their overvaluation is corrected.

In conclusion, short-only hedge funds employ a variety of strategies to profit from declining markets. By combining fundamental analysis, technical analysis, event-driven analysis, and quantitative analysis, these funds can identify potential short-selling opportunities and profit from market declines.

Evaluating Short-Only Hedge Fund Performance

Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to measure a short-only hedge fund's performance. The most commonly used KPIs include the fund's net asset value (NAV), return on investment (ROI), and volatility. Investors can use these metrics to compare fund performance against benchmarks and track the portfolio's performance over time.

Comparing to Benchmarks and Peers

It is essential to compare a short-only hedge fund's performance against industry benchmarks and peers. Key benchmarks include the S&P 500 and other relevant market indices. By comparing a fund's performance against these benchmarks, investors can determine whether the fund is generating alpha or underperforming the market.

Assessing Risk-Adjusted Returns

When evaluating a short-only hedge fund's performance, it is essential to consider risk-adjusted returns. This metric takes into account the risk taken to generate returns and can provide a more accurate picture of the fund's performance. One commonly used risk-adjusted performance metric is the Sharpe ratio, which measures the fund's excess returns relative to the risk taken.


Short-only hedge funds can be a valuable asset for investors looking to generate substantial returns. However, they come with significant risks, and it is essential to understand how they work before investing. By employing sound investment strategies and evaluating a fund's performance using key metrics, investors can potentially realize substantial profits while mitigating risks.

Remember that short-only hedge funds are not for everyone as they require a massive amount of expertise and capital to effectively manage. By taking the time to learn about short-only hedge funds and developing a sound investment strategy, you can potentially benefit from these alternative investment vehicles.

Share this post
Jan Strandberg
August 4, 2021
5 min read

Related blog

Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

If you're interested in investing in alternative assets that offer potentially higher returns while also providing...

Jan Strandberg
July 10, 2021
5 min read

Hedge funds have become increasingly popular in recent years, attracting investors with their...

Han Strandberg
July 16, 2021
5 min read

Investing in hedge funds has become an increasingly popular way for individuals and institutions to...

Jan Strandberg
July 30, 2021
5 min read

Hedge funds have been around for decades, and they have become a staple...

Jan Strandberg
August 4, 2021
5 min read

In the world of finance, hedge funds are a popular investment vehicle for high net worth individuals...

Jan Strandberg
August 4, 2021
5 min read

Hedge funds have become increasingly popular over recent years due to their reputation...

Jan Strandberg
August 12, 2021
5 min read

Hedge funds are alternative investment funds that cater to high net worth individuals...

Jan Strandberg
August 18, 2021
5 min read