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Tesla’s (TSLA) steep drop is driven by short-seller activity, says Bank of America

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) has taken a steep dive recently, with the company’s shares down nearly 40% in the last six months and down 26% since April 1. With TSLA stock dropping to the $200 range, several analysts from Wall St have become particularly skeptical of the electric car maker, including Wedbush Securities’ Dan Ives and Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas.

The drop in Tesla stock could be attributed to the company’s lower-than-expected performance in the first quarter, as well as concerns about the company’s strategy for the near future. Nevertheless, a Bank of America analyst has noted on Wednesday that TSLA’s stock price plunge is likely due to short sellers increasing their bets against the company.

According to Bank of America analyst John Murphy, this increase in short seller activity could prime TSLA stock for a sharp move upward, in what could become a “short squeeze.” Tesla is among the most shorted companies in the market, even when it was trading near all-time highs. With shares down to the $200 level, over 31% of the company’s floating shares are sold short as of May 21, according to data from FactSet.

“Although far from taking a constructive view on TSLA, it appears much of the pressure on the stock over the past few days/weeks has been driven by shorts pressing aggressively. In our view, this could set up for a short squeeze in the coming days/weeks/months should deliveries, profits/losses, cash flow/burn come in even slightly better than draconian expectations, or should Musk introduce another business venture and/or longer-term financial target that once again gets bulls excited,” Murphy wrote.

The Bank of America analyst actually holds a bearish stance on Tesla stock, maintaining an “Underperform” rating on the electric car maker. This, if any, makes Murphy’s recognition of a potential short squeeze even more notable, since he is already coming from a rather skeptical perspective on Tesla.

While several analysts from Wall St have piled on the negativity since shares breached the $250 level, some TSLA bulls have maintained their optimism on the company. Baird analyst Ben Kallo, a longtime Tesla bull, maintained his “Outperform” rating on TSLA stock, despite adjusting his price target to $340 from $400. According to Kallo in a recent note, Tesla “is positioned to outperform over the long run, as the company increases profitability, generates free cash flow, and ramps production of innovative products.” Another Tesla bull, Colin Rusch of Oppenheimer, also noted that Tesla’s ambitious guidance for 2019 could still be achieved.

As of writing, Tesla stock is trading -3.62% at $197.89 per share.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

Tesla’s (TSLA) steep drop is driven by short-seller activity, says Bank of America
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