In order to short a stock, investors must first borrow the stock to sell it. If a stock becomes hard-to-borrow (there is a higher demand to borrow than there is availability to lend) then the fee to borrow increases. Since investors can also create synthetic short stock positions using options (buying a put and selling a call on the same strike or a conversion/reversal strategy), the fee will be reflected in the option prices to exploit any arbitrage between the synthetic and cash markets.
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