Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) meteoric rise has been a particularly painful ride for the companys’ short-sellers, some of whom have been burned and brought down to their knees. This was despite some of Tesla’s most ardent supporters on Wall Street recommending that investors take profit as the stock approaches $500 per share.
Longtime Tesla bull Ben Kallo of Baird recently downgraded his rating on TSLA stock. While he boosted his TSLA price target from $355 to $525, he has given the electric car maker the equivalent of a “Hold” rating. In a note to clients, Kallo stated that the “risk/reward is more balanced following recent stock appreciation.” He also mentioned that investors’ expectations for the company now seem to be “fairly calibrated.”
With this in mind, Kallo, who has long maintained his “Buy” rating on TSLA stock and who has described himself as “Battle-Worn,” stated that some profit-taking might be in order. “After several years at an outperform rating, which included contentious arguments with (evidently) high-conviction bears, we recommend profit-taking,” he wrote.
After ending 2019 on a powerful note, Tesla stock has continued its meteoric rise. In the first few days of 2020 alone, TSLA shares have gained almost 18%. By Wednesday’s trading, the company’s stock came close to hitting the $500 a share level, further establishing itself as the most valuable carmaker in American history to date.
These recent surges have been particularly painful for the company’s short-sellers. Among those active in social media platforms such as Twitter alone, some prolific shorts have admitted that they are now trimming their position against the electric car maker. One of these is aggressive Tesla short-seller Mark Spiegel, who has been featured multiple times in mainstream media despite his frequent bouts of alarming misogyny and online bullying on social media.
Spiegel’s fund, Stanphyl Capital Management, was battered in 2019, and a good part of it was due to the firm’s short position against Tesla. After releasing a report to his clients where he admitted that his fund had underperformed the market yet again, Spiegel stated that he had trimmed Stanphyl’s TSLA short to just 10% of his fund. Previously, it was at 20%. This was a rare act for the short-seller, who is among the most aggressive against the company and its CEO, Elon Musk.
But amidst TSLA’s recent rise, it appears that the short-seller was brought down to his knees even more. In an update on Twitter, Spiegel stated that he has further slashed Stanphyl’s short against Tesla, reducing it from 10% to just 5% of his fund. With this in mind, it appears that Tesla is starting to become a bit too costly to short, at least for short-sellers like Spiegel. This is despite Tesla still being one of the most-shorted companies in the market.
This is something that the Baird analyst has stated in his recent note. Kallo noted that while it would be a good idea for investors to take profits at this level, shorting TSLA stock is still a very risky strategy. This is especially true since Tesla is now at a place where it is operating much more efficiently than before. “Despite (overly dynamic) short arguments since inception, the company has continued to grow and execute,” he noted.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.