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Persistently High Stock Loan Fee as Return Predictor

December 3, 2020 • Posted in Short Selling

Do stocks with high borrowing costs (loan fees) exhibit predictably low short-term returns? In their November 2020 paper entitled “Borrowing Fees and Expected Stock Returns”, Kaitlin Hendrix and Gavin Crabb explore whether stock loan fees contain reliable and useful information about short-term stock returns worldwide. To isolate borrowing activity most likely related to short selling, they require: (1) no naked short selling allowed in the market; (2) covered short selling allowed throughout the sample period; and, (3) low likelihood of lending securities around dividends for tax reasons. They focus on stocks that are expensive to borrow, small-capitalization stocks with loan fee thresholds determined country by country. They each day form market capitalization-weighted portfolios of stocks not on loan, stocks with low loan fees and stocks with high loan fees based on lending activity the prior trading day. They also consider lending activity the prior three or five days, with not-on-loan and high-fee stocks meeting requirements each of the three or five days. Using proprietary mutual fund stock loan data from Dimensional Fund Advisors across 14 developed and emerging markets during 2011 through 2017 and associated daily stock returns through 2018, they find that:

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