Friday, July 12, 2024

The Tesla bulls ride again: Morning Brief


This is The Takeaway from today’s Morning Brief, which you can sign up to receive in your inbox every morning along with:

If Tesla (TSLA) can be a tech company when car sales falter, surely it can be a car company when sales exceed expectations. That’s how Wall Street sees it, as Tesla bulls are once again ascendant.

Over the last week, Tesla shares have surged more than 25%, boosted by vehicle deliveries that beat estimates, leaving the paltry gains of the rest of the “Magnificent Seven” in the dust.

When CEO Elon Musk insisted earlier this year that Tesla isn’t a car company, the message jolted the stock price even as sales faltered. While convenient, the pitch was true enough. And the edict apparently goes both ways.

The stock surge speaks to the power of touting an industry-leading product — a lesson for AI startups — and the benefit of making AI ambitions a part of a broader business plan, rather than the sole aspect of it. But conversely, it underscores that Tesla’s heady AI goals are still closely tethered to its car sales.

Combining lofty techno-ambitions with moving cars off lots has been key to Musk’s salesmanship.

“In a nutshell, the worst is in the rear-view mirror for Tesla as we believe the EV demand story is starting to return to the disruptive tech stalwart,” outspoken Tesla backer Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities wrote in a note earlier this week.

The upbeat delivery data counters a wave of negative sentiment.

Driven by stiffening competition in China, softening demand at home, price cuts, layoffs, and Musk’s legal and corporate dramas, Tesla had limped along as a Magnificent Seven laggard. But recent wins have a way of erasing earlier losses. And Tesla is now riding a string of victories, with an earnings report and a much-hyped robotaxi unveiling just around the corner.

Investors are buying into the shifting mood. Since a low in late April, Tesla is up more than 60%.

But even some Tesla backers are poking holes in the latest rally. It’s true Tesla beat expectations, but sales fell from the same period last year. And how have more aggressive rivals and cheaper prices eaten into profitability?

“In reality Tesla EV sales were down 5% and the company seems to be capitulating to the idea of selling EVs. It’s all about FSD and taxis now,” said Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management, referring to Full Self-Driving.

In some ways, Tesla’s flexible identity as a car company when times are good and a tech company when the chips are down can be a hindrance to a clear corporate strategy. Is Tesla still gunning for a mass-market EV in every family’s driveway? Or is it a platform orchestrating a fleet of autonomous taxis expanding the frontier of AI technology?

It can be both, of course. And Musk is prone to wanting it all. Investors don’t seem to mind which metaphorical cap the company is wearing on any particular day. Just as long as the numbers go up. AI can make that happen. And, for now, so can cars.

Hamza Shaban is a reporter for Yahoo Finance covering markets and the economy. Follow Hamza on Twitter @hshaban.

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