"Going short" is an ancient and accepted practice in securities markets. It is also such a hazardous endeavor that few market players save virtuosos are advised to try it, and sometimes they are sorry. Last week one such rueful expert was Wall Street's George Geyer, one of the nation's biggest dealers in insurance stocks, who closed the doors of his brokerage house "indefinitely" while he counted up the cost of going short.

Geyer became bearish in insurance stocks in a big way this year and accordingly went short (i.e., sold to his customers, at current prices, stocks which he did not...

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