Those of us old enough to remember the dot-com bubble in the late ‘90s will recognize a familiar feeling with what’s happening with Tesla, a feeling that maybe all of this really could change the world. Or maybe it will come crashing down. Or maybe, more accurately, these are just the growing pains of a new beginning.
That’s because, for now, Tesla is a rocketship soaring ever higher. And while there are still billions and billions of dollars bet against it—the short-sellers who CEO Elon Musk takes great pleasure in mocking—those positions have become increasingly fraught. Tesla’s stock price edges higher, while there doesn’t seem like there’s anything in the short-term that will slow it down.
According to a story in The Wall Street Journal today, only the hardcore disbelievers are still hanging on:
With Tesla shares more than tripling this year, short sellers—investors who have bet against the stock—have lost $17.89 billion on paper during the period, according to Ihor Dusaniwsky, head of predictive analytics at S3 Partners. In July, the bearish investors are down more than $4 billion, with shares up 2.1% on Thursday.
The recent stock surge has reduced the short sellers’ ranks to the hardest core, said Mr. Dusaniwsky. “These losses have squeezed out most of the less rabid short sellers, leaving only those most dogmatic short sellers in the trade,” he said Wednesday. Short-seller interest in Tesla has fallen to less than 10% of its stock, compared with more than 20% about a year ago.
Like all automakers, Tesla has had the coronavirus pandemic to navigate, but its factory near Shanghai—closed for just two weeks because of the pandemic, as opposed to its Fremont, California plant, which shuttered for a month-and-a-half—has helped mitigate the impact. (How that shutdown went was a very Elon affair.)
Still, the biggest question on everyone’s minds is whether Tesla will report a profit for the second quarter later this month. According to a new Reuters report, more and more analysts think the company will. That could trigger inclusion in the S&P 500:
Higher-than-expected second-quarter vehicle deliveries, announced last week, have analysts increasingly confident the company will show a profit in its quarterly report on July 22. That would mark Tesla’s first cumulative four-quarter profit, a key hurdle to be added to the S&P 500.
Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones, had to look back to the dot-com era to recall a comparable situation. In 1999, Yahoo surged 64% in five trading days between the announcement that it would be added to the index on Nov. 30 and its inclusion after the close of trading on Dec. 7. Yahoo’s market capitalization at the time was about $56 billion.
After its earnings report, the second-biggest question for Tesla will be whether the Model Y will be a hit. We should have some idea about that by the end of 2020, as the economy recovers and new car sales further normalize. Like with the Model 3, Tesla has again positioned itself to bet the farm on a single car. And while a second-quarter profit will give it a boost until then, if the Model Y doesn’t become the hit Tesla thinks it will, look out.
Few dispute that electric cars are our future, just like few disputed the internet was the future a couple decades ago. It might just be a rocky path getting there.