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Short Selling Screens

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James Montier Trinity of Risk Screen

James Montier Trinity of Risk is a short selling strategy that uses rules suggested by economist and equity strategist James Montier, who wrote Value Investing. He based the approach on three risk factors highlighted by value investor Benjamin Graham: Valuation Risk, Earnings Risk and Financial Risk. It identifies companies that could be overvalued, have poor quality earnings and might be financially distressed. Specifically it uses the Graham & Dodd price-to-earnings ratio and looks for companies that are reporting exceptionally high earnings growth but fail the Altman Z Score of balance sheet risk. James Montier wrote: "Risk isn't a number, it is a concept or a notion? Rather than running around obsessing on the pseudoscience of risk management, investors should concentrate on understanding the nature of this trinity of risks." Short selling shares can be very risky but the Trinity of Risk can still be used as an indicator of which stocks should be avoided. more »

Short Selling
5 Year Return: 145.7%
Altman Z-Score Screen

The Altman Z-Score is a checklist for identifying stocks that might be at risk of bankruptcy. It was created by US finance Professor Edward Altman and detailed in a book he co-authored, called Managing Credit Risk. The Z-Score is a red flag indicator that can be used as a short selling strategy. It analyses five weighted business ratios to estimate the likelihood of financial distress. Broadly, these checks examine a company's asset, strength, profitability, solvency, efficiency and ability to generate earnings. Altman wrote: "The detection of company operating and financial difficulties is a subject which has been particularly amenable to analysis with financial ratios." Tests over 31 years to 1999 found the Z-Score to be 80-90% accurate in predicting bankruptcy one year prior to the event. The Z-Score is one of the components used in another short selling strategy: James Montier Trinity of Risk. more »

Short Selling
5 Year Return: 44.4%
Beneish M-Score Screen

The Beneish M-Score is a checklist for identifying stocks that might be manipulating their earning figures. It was created by US finance Professor Messod Daniel Beneish and presented in a paper called The Predictable Cost of Earnings Manipulation. The M-Score is a red flag indicator that is often used as part of a short selling strategy. It calculates and distils eight different accounting variables into a single score. Generally, a score greater than -1.78 (i.e. a less negative or positive number) indicates an increased likelihood of a firm being an earnings manipulator. Beneish wrote: "We show that firms with a high probability of overstated earnings have lower future earnings, less persistent income-increasing accruals, and lower future returns." The M-score strategy apparently generated a hedged return of nearly 14% per year, mostly from the short positions. more »

Short Selling
5 Year Return: 22.4%
James Montier 'Cooking the Books' Screen

James Montier Cooking the Books is a short selling strategy based on research by economist and equity strategist James Montier. It uses Low Quality criteria to identify stocks that could be at risk of bad accounting practice. The 6-point C-Score checklist looks at the divergence between net income and cash-flow, increasing days sales outstanding, increasing days sales of inventory, increasing current assets to revenues, declining depreciation relative to property, plant and equipment and high total asset growth. Montier found that the C-Score was even more effective when used to assess stocks that look over-valued on a price-to-sales ratio basis. James Montier wrote: "In good times, few focus on such 'mundane' issues as earnings quality and footnotes. However, this lack of attention to 'detail' tends to come back and bite investors in the arse during bad times." Montier found that stocks with a C-score of 5 and a price-to-sales ratio of greater than 2 tend to generate a negative absolute return of 4% per year. Short selling shares can be very risky but the C-Score can still be used as an indicator of which stocks should be avoided. more »

Short Selling
5 Year Return: -15.1%
Earnings Downgrade Momentum Screen

Earnings Forecast Downgrades is a short selling and red flag strategy identified in a research paper by academics Philipp McKnight and Steven Todd, called Analyst Forecasts and the Cross Section of European Stock Returns. It looks for stocks experiencing earnings forecast downgrades by analysts as a potential trigger of negative momentum. They found that the positive returns from an earnings upgrade portfolio were large and persistent, whereas the sell portfolio generated a near zero return because bad news was quickly 'priced-in'. While the strategy on its own may be difficult to profit from, it still highlights stocks that should perhaps be avoided, or warrant careful additional research. McKnight and Todd wrote: "We find differences in the return continuation patterns of stocks with upward versus downward revisions, namely, bad news travels quickly, but good news travels slowly." more »

Short Selling
5 Year Return: -15.2%
James Montier 'Unholy Trinity' Screen

James Montier Unholy Trinity is a three point short selling strategy inspired by research by economist and equity strategist James Montier called Joining The Dark Side: Pirates, Spies and Short Sellers The approach uses three risk factors to identify stocks that might be overvalued, financially weak and poorly managed. It uses the price-to-sales ratio to find companies that appear to be overvalued based on their revenues. It looks for signs of low quality by finding stocks that score less than 3 out of 9 on the Piotroski F-Score of financial health. Finally, Montier looks for companies where asset growth could be excessive, based on the theory that management tend to be wasteful allocators of capital. James Montier wrote: "It never ceases to amaze me that whenever a major corporate declines the short sellers are suddenly painted as financial equivalents of psychopaths. This is madness, rather than examining the exceptionally poor (and sometimes criminal) decisions that the corporate itself took, the short sellers are hauled over the coals." Montier found that between 1985 and 2007 a portfolio of Unholy Trinity stocks rebalanced annually would have declined over 6% p.a. compared to a market that was rising at the rate of 13% p.a. in Europe. Short selling shares can be very risky but the Unholy Trinity can still be used as an indicator of which stocks should be avoided. more »

Short Selling
5 Year Return: -29.7%
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