Bloomberg is reporting Short Sellers Under Fire in U.S., U.K. After AIG Fall.

The Securities and Exchange Commission halted short selling of 799 financial companies, pressing an assault on speculators after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and American International Group Inc.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index surged 2.9 percent following the announcement. U.S. equities staged the biggest rally in six years yesterday after the SEC stiffened other regulations aimed at curbing manipulative trading.

“The shorting rules gave investors the belief the world is not coming to an end,” said Phil Orlando, New York-based chief equity strategist at Federated Investors Inc., which oversees $334 billion. “You had a lot of the hedge funds ganging up on these financial companies and putting them out of business.”

Hedge funds and investors who profit from share declines are being scrutinized after $3 trillion was wiped from stocks globally this week as financial shares swooned. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, the remaining independent securities firms on Wall Street, plunged by the most ever, prompting Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer John Mack to say short sellers are using abusive tactics to attack companies.

Financial regulators in the U.S. and U.K., attorneys general in New York, Texas and Connecticut, and the three largest U.S. pension funds all began cracking down on short sellers this week.

The SEC said today that it will halt short selling of U.S. banks, insurance companies and securities firms through Oct. 2, while the Financial Services Authority in the U.K. banned short sales of financial shares for the rest of the year.

Banning Shorts

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo started an investigation into whether investors illegally drove down stock prices of financial firms. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the New York State Common Retirement Fund decided to stop lending shares for short sales.

Inquiring minds can find some comments I made last evening in Peak Insanity: SEC Plans to Temporarily Ban Short-Selling. I will have additional comments later this morning.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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