If you're a retail customer who enters an order online, you probably won't be able to borrow shares, according to my informal survey. The one exception seemed to be through Ameritrade ( AMTD), which executed short sales of 200 TLT shares on the first submission for a $30,000 account. Scottrade did not lend the shares to a $100,000 account. Meanwhile, an individual with a $1 million account clearing through SLK had no problem shorting 1,000 shares. Further up the food chain, a small hedge fund with just under $5 million under management was told by his prime broker that he could short 5,000 shares immediately, but would need time to locate additional shares. Large funds seem to have little problem borrowing a few thousand shares. Your broker will be more responsive if you get on the phone and talk to a live person. And the more money you have, the more likely your broker is to take your call and provide service. You'll need to check the shares' availability before entering the actual order. However, this should by no means be construed as a recommendation to short these ETFs; it's merely a pulse check. If you do decide to proceed, I'd
love to hear from more readers about their experiences, and I'll report the results next week.