Investor's Corner

Tesla (TSLA) shares surge amid breakout Q4 earnings, shorts burned with $5B loss

The Tesla Model Y body shop in Fremont, CA. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla shares (NASDAQ:TSLA) were on a tear on Wednesday’s trading, ending the day at $580.99 per share. At the time, it seemed like a good level for some bulls to enjoy some of their earnings, especially considering that the release of earnings usually results in TSLA’s trademark volatility. But as it turned out, this time around, Tesla was actually just getting started.

Propelled by yet another breakout earnings report, which saw the electric car maker post $7.3 billion in revenue and an earnings per share of $2.14 in the fourth quarter, Tesla shares saw a meteoric rise in Wednesday’s after-hours trading. This rally continued well into Thursday’s pre-market, with shares trading as high as 11%. Amidst this rise, Tesla bears, who have been dealt numerous blows in the past few months, had to swallow yet another painful, white-hot pill on Thursday. 

S3 Partners’ Ihor Dusaniwsky, who actively tracks Tesla’s short interest, noted that shorts have swallowed $5.42 billion worth of mark-to-market losses in January 2020. What’s pretty remarkable was that $1.28 billion of this number came from Thursday’s pre-market movements alone.

Tesla will likely be a polarizing stock for years to come. Even amidst the company’s radical rise since posting its Q3 2019 earnings, Wall Street analysts are still widely divided on the electric car maker. Among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, 18 have a “Sell” rating on the stock, twice the number of analysts who have a “Buy” rating. Short interest also remains at about 11% of the company’s float, according to data from IHS Markit. 

Yet, as TSLA shares climbed following the earnings report on Wednesday, even bearish analysts were forced to adjust their price targets for the company. RBC analyst Joseph Spak, who has an “Underperform” rating on TSLA, adjusted his price target to $530 per share, a far cry from his previous $315 estimate. Spak also admitted to being “misguided” in some of his assumptions about the company, though he continues to insist that Tesla shares are overvalued. 

Wedbush also set a new bull case scenario with an optimistic price target of $900 per share. Dan Ives, who was aggravated with Tesla and its executives during the past year’s challenging quarters, recognized that the company’s presence in Shanghai might very well help the electric car maker’s numbers this year. 

“We believe hitting the important 500k delivery threshold for FY20 is well within reach as now based on our Chinese demand scenario analysis that Tesla has the potential to hit the elusive 1 million overall delivery vehicle mark potentially two years ahead of our original 2024 projections given this current trajectory aiming now at 2022,” he noted.

Piper Sandler posted a bullish outlook for Tesla, with analyst Alexander Potter raising his price target of $553 to $729 per share. In a note to clients, Potter stated that he is giving Tesla more credit for its operating leverage, saying that the company’s “thriftiness continues to impress.” The analyst also noted that Tesla is on a path towards becoming “the world’s only relevant publicly-listed automaker.”

There comes a point in time when even the most persistent bearish arguments get proven so wrong, they become nothing more than noise. This certainly appears to be the case with Tesla shares, with investors supporting the company due to its improving fundamentals. With shorts hurting from this recent rise, it remains to be seen just how high Tesla could fly in the near future.

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

Tesla (TSLA) shares surge amid breakout Q4 earnings, shorts burned with $5B loss
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