Trump Media is a risky bet, whether you love it or hate it

Trump Media is a risky bet, whether you love it or hate it

Mar 28,2024

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN Business’ Nightcap newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free, here.

New York CNN  — 

Trump Media’s trading debut this week gave Donald Trump’s biggest fans a way to show their support with their wallets, albeit in a seriously risky way that few financial advisers would endorse.

Naturally, Trump’s detractors may be keen to take the opposite side of that bet by setting up a short position, a.k.a. a wager that the stock’s value will fall.

The short bet might look appealing on paper. After all, Trump Media, the parent company of the fledgling right-wing platform Truth Social, brings in little revenue, posts zero profit and has given no indication it has a path to profitability that would justify its current $9 billion market valuation. The stock is pretty much guaranteed to fall, right?

Yes. But it may take a very long time. And it’s now the most expensive US stock to short, with borrowing rates more than 200 times the average, according to research from S3 Partners.

Those who have already swallowed the high borrowing costs to short Trump Media are getting hosed. On Tuesday alone, shorts notched paper losses of $61 million, according to S3.

It’s worth noting that a short bet is almost always riskier than a long one. If you buy $100 worth of shares that eventually become worthless, your loss is limited to $100.

When you short a stock, you’re essentially borrowing it for a small fee and selling it high, with the promise to return to its owner later by buying it back at (you hope) a much lower price. You make money by pocketing the difference. But if the stock price keeps going up, there’s no limit to the amount you’d have to pay to replace the borrowed shares.

“There is huuuuge conviction (Trump pun intended) on the short-side that there will be a significant decline in its stock price in the short term,” wrote Ihor Dusaniwsky, S3’s managing director of predictive analytics. “But…long shareholders have a much different and much more positive view” on Trump Media.

Bottom line: Trump Media, trading under the ticker DJT, is a classic meme stock (if “classic” can apply to a three-year-old concept). Investors are not piling in because of the fundamentals — you don’t need an MBA to understand that $49 million in losses against $3.4 million in revenue doesn’t look like a solid business.

But like GameStop, AMC and Bed Bath & Beyond before it, DJT is riding high on vibes. Trump fans are moved by a higher calling, much like the diamond-handed rocket-emoji crowd of Mass Momentum Trades Past.

Whether you’re going short or long, “think of that as you’re making a political statement,” said Laurence White, an economics professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “On average, it’s not going to turn out well.”

He added: “Even if you’re a big believer — ‘this is a bubble, it will eventually burst’ — the issue is, eventually could be a long time. And in the interim, especially if you’re on the short side, that can be very expensive.”

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