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Toxic Financing: The Dark Side of Penny Stocks 

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 10/15/2021 10 min read

In today’s post, I’ll share a case study on toxic financing featuring FuelCell Energy, Inc (NASDAQ: FCEL). Welcome to the dark side of penny stocks.

For the last two years, I’ve been primarily a long-biased trader who trades with a small account.

Why do I trade with a small account?

I’ve found that trading with a small account makes it easier for my students to learn. Rather than watching me trade with hundreds of thousands of dollars, I trade with an account that’s similar in size to theirs.

I want to prove it’s possible to be profitable with a small account and also teach my students in the Trading Challenge how to be consistently profitable.

My Trading Style

Why am I a long-biased penny stock trader?

Recently, I discussed the growing trend of newbie short-sellers and short-selling chatrooms. I’m not saying new traders can’t make money shorting, but they’re utterly unprepared for the volatile penny stock market.

A couple of weeks ago, I provided two in-depth blog posts about the XNET short squeeze and why short squeezes are growing in frequency, expressing the difficulty of shorting right now.

Again, let me emphasize: Longing penny stocks isn’t a walk in the park. Over 90% of people fail to trade penny stocks profitably. However, my top students have defied the odds and consistently make money trading penny stocks.

Buying penny stocks has a lousy reputation in large institutions on Wall Street, which has scared many people away from this profitable niche. They’re the worst of the worst companies. After all, penny stocks are penny stocks for a reason! But the problem isn’t penny stocks. People aren’t aware of the scummy practices penny stock companies and their promoters use on a daily basis.

The Dark Side of Buying Penny Stocks

I’ve talked about stock dilution and toxic financing in a ton of video lessons and blog posts. There’s nothing wrong with dilution. Companies do it all the time. Large blue-chip companies like Apple continuously issue new bonds and other notes to fund their research and development.

But penny stocks don’t have the same financing options as large companies. So, they‘re forced into toxic deals that dilute shareholders to avoid bankruptcy.

All companies are out for themselves. They’ll do anything and everything to stay alive, including dump millions of shares on your positions to raise money.

Penny Stock Toxic Financing

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The underlying reason for most penny stock runs is to help a company justify an offering with a financer. During this deadly cycle of dumping shares on retail investors, companies often run out of ways to finance their operations, leading to toxic deal structures.

The best example of this toxic stock dilution happened with DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS). During the autumn of 2016, DRYS went on an impressive multiday run from $4 to a high of $100. This massive short squeeze was one of the largest I’ve ever seen, and many of my students capitalized on the insane move.

Since 2016, the company has undergone numerous reverse splits and continuously issued new forms of toxic financing to help fund its operations. DryShips’s financing forced millions of shares into the public market and caused the stock to fall in price dramatically.

Regardless of a catalyst, news event, or the amount of volume traded on any given day, the structure of the finance deals didn’t allow the stock to spike a considerable amount. It’s a sad thing to see and one of the main reasons penny stocks have such a bad reputation.

Many people invested in DRYS, but over the years, the dilution caused any investment in the company to be worthless.

Adjusted for all the reverse stock splits, here’s the current DRYS chart…

DRYS 4-year chart daily candlestick toxic financing
DRYS 4-year chart: daily candlestick, example of toxic financing courtesy of StocksToTrade.com

Look at the dilutive downtrend. After factoring in reverse splits, if someone invested $1.6 million at the peak of the November 2016 run, those shares would currently be worth only $5.24 today. (Hint: click on the chart to view full-size in a new browser tab.)

It’s no wonder why penny stocks are terrifying to the outside investor who’s uneducated!

If you’re looking to start your education but don’t know where to begin, my FREE guide to penny stocks is a great resource for new traders.

FCEL’s Dark Side

A current example of toxic stock dilution is occurring with FuelCell Energy, Inc (NASDAQ: FCEL).

Since the beginning of 2019, the company has undergone multiple reverse stock splits and continues to dilute into shareholders.

FCEL YTD chart: daily candlestick, example of toxic financing — courtesy of StocksToTrade.com
FCEL YTD chart: daily candlestick, example of toxic financing — courtesy of StocksToTrade.com

Every time the stock spikes, the company unloads its previous offerings, selling millions of shares onto retail investors. Information about the offerings is challenging to find and requires an understanding of SEC filings.

SEC filings are extremely difficult to read because they’re convoluted with business and lawyer jargon to hide the terrible dilution occurring behind the scenes. (Get my Read SEC Filings DVD here. My first millionaire student, Michael Goode, and I go into detail about our research methods. This must-have DVD simplifies the process of poring over all sorts of SEC filings. And … it pulls back the veil on toxic financing.)

Because of the shady practices by financing firms and penny stock companies, newbies often buy stocks like FCEL when they begin to spike or when a new press release comes out. Sadly, time and time again, the company will sell its offering shares into the spike, causing the stock to dump and newbies to lose money.

The toxic stock dilution practices are legal because they’re fully disclosed in the SEC filings. This dark side of penny stocks is rarely discussed and will never go away. For many companies, it’s their only hope of survival.

The only thing people can do is educate and protect themselves from the dilution. From a long-biased standpoint, traders should avoid stocks like FCEL and DRYS once they become massively dilutive.

I’m proud to say that many of my students did a great job navigating FCEL and their offers the past several weeks.

Shorting the Dark Side

The dilution throughout penny stocks is one of the biggest draws for new short sellers. However, these newbies don’t understand the foundations of trading and can’t appropriately trade a dilutive company like FCEL.

Michael Hudson, Profit.ly user Huddie, is one of my top students. To date, he reports profiting approximately a quarter of a million dollars primarily from short selling stocks. Huddie invested in his education and studied for many years. As a result, he understood FCEL was a great shorting opportunity.

He published a video on Profit.ly discussing how he took advantage of FCEL’s toxic financing. You can watch it here.

Huddie explains in his video lesson how he formed a trading plan around the FCEL dilution and used his live FCEL trade to show students how to take good entries and exits.

Thanks to the lessons from the Trading Challenge, he waited for the proper time to short FCEL and capitalized on the dump.

[Please note Huddie’s results are not typical. He has exceptional knowledge and skills that he’s developed with time and dedication. Most traders lose money. Trading is risky. Do your due diligence and never risk more than you can afford.]

The Truth About Shady Penny Stocks

Penny stocks are a unique niche in the stock market because they’re some of the most highly volatile and scummy companies on the planet — but they can offer incredible trading opportunities.

I always tell my students to invest in their education first. The uneducated people are the ones buying DRYS or FCEL and getting dumped on from their shady offerings. My students understand that not all penny stocks are worth playing.

One of the first lessons from my Trading Challenge is to look at a daily chart and see if a stock has ever tried to run before. In cases like FCEL, it’s clear there’s something fundamentally wrong with the company.

FCEL trended down for all of 2019 with many failed spikes. The failed spikes are a huge red flag for long-biased traders but can be an excellent opportunity for short sellers like Huddie.

The lack of information and shady behavior of penny stock companies can help my students get ahead. I don’t want toxic financing or other misleading practices to end because they potentially only help my students. While there are no guarantees in the market, ever, some of us are all about these situations, under the right circumstances.

My only hope is you take trading seriously and will educate yourself to avoid companies willing to dump millions of shares onto their shareholders.

Recent Tweets, Comments, and Trades from Students

FCEL has tried to spike many times, but my students were prepared! Many of them followed Huddie’s example and profited on the short side.

From the Trading Challenge Chat Room

November 6:

1:35 PM jobeauthement: $fcel going back to the gutter where it belongs.

3:08 PM markcroock: float seems like its a few billion lol on $FCEL.

November 7:

11:13 AM markcroock: $FCEL will try give it all day for fade to new lows.

12:47PM Jackaroo: covered $FCEL .43, from .50. Just a small gain because I used small position size, but good practice.

More Comments from the TimAlerts Chat Room

November 6:

10:00 AM MichaelGoode SSAK: $FCEL having convertibles outstanding and an ATM certainly don’t help it go up.

1:42 PM SatelliteIncomeUnlimited: $FCEL climbing again, but it’s risky for a couple of pennies per share at the most right now.

November 7:

1:22 PM CKP111: when you buy the dip and it just continuously dipping lol that’s $BNGO. It reminds me of $FCEL.

1:42 PM MichaelGoode: $FCEL broke yesterday’s low.

What’s your opinion on trashy penny stocks? Comment below — I love to hear the opinions of my readers!

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Author card Timothy Sykes picture

Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”