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Tesla Stock Is Falling Again. There’s Too Much Going On.

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Tesla is dealing with a China snag and a federal investigation with Wall Street watching.

David Gannon/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla

might have an interesting Friday. There’s a lot going on.

For starters, the electric-vehicle pioneer looks like it’s getting caught up a new U.S.-China spat. Then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is investigating more Tesla crashes. And, as usual, Wall Street is writing reports.

Tesla (ticker: TSLA) stock is a little shaky in midday trading, down about 0.9%investors should expect extra volatility today. The

S&P 500

is up 0.1%.

The auto maker’s China trade glitch comes a day after the first meeting of the new Biden administration and Chinese diplomats degenerated into a back-and-forth over human rights and democracy. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported the Chinese government isn’t allowing military staffers and employees of certain state-run companies to drive Tesla vehicles for national security reasons.

For Tesla, the move is a big deal. China is the world’s largest market for both new gas-powered cars and EVs. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives calls the economic powerhouse a “linchpin to future growth,” telling Barron’s in November that Tesla sold roughly 150,000 cars in China in 2020, “a remarkable achievement in a Covid-year.”

NHTSA, for its part, is looking into 23 crashes, a few that happened in recent weeks, Reuters reported just before the market closed Thursday. Tesla stock was down about 7%, but it was a miserable day for all large tech stocks. The

Invesco QQQ ETF

(QQQ) which tracks the

Nasdaq-100 Index

dropped 3.1%.

The reason for the investigations isn’t clear. In early March, founder Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla is testing more sophisticated self-driving software.

Twitter

(TWTR) is now full of bulls and bears posting competing videos of successes and failures.

The NHTSA website, where consumers can look up recalls and investigations, doesn’t list any formal investigations into 2020 model-year Tesla vehicles. NHTSA wasn’t immediately available to comment on the Reuters report.

Tesla wasn’t immediately available for comment about China or NHTSA issues.

Then, there is Wall Street. GaveKal analyst Louis Gave wrote again about the “EV craze.” On March 10, Gave listed warnings signs of an EV stock bubble. DataTrek research also warned investors off Tesla in a Friday note. They aren’t making a fundamental call. They see a stock-market rotation out of growth and into value stocks unfolding. “Cyclical rotations don’t have to make sense to hurt a portfolio,” wrote co-founder Nicholas Colas in an email to his clients. “As long as long rates continue to rise, this is the investment world we have.”

Rising interest rates have hurt Tesla stock. Shares are down roughly 30% from their 52-week high. Higher rates hurt high-growth stocks more than others because growth companies generate most of their cash flow far in the future. Higher rates reduce the present value of that cash.

Tesla qualifies as a high-growth company. Management is targeting 50% unit volume growth a year on average for the foreseeable future.

Write to Al Root at [email protected]

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