Tesla Posts Record Earnings at Start of Turbulent Year
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Tesla Posts Record Earnings at Start of Turbulent Year

Electric-vehicle pioneer faces safety investigations and mounting competition.

By Rebecca Elliot
Tue, Apr 27, 2021 10:37amGrey Clock 5 min

Tesla Inc. posted a record quarterly profit despite supply disruptions, fueled by rising deliveries and increasingly broad-based demand for electric vehicles.

The Silicon Valley car maker has enjoyed booming sales, driven by both its popular Model Y compact sport-utility vehicle and sustained demand in China. The company also has benefited from the wider embrace of plug-in cars as governments across the world push to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles, in some cases through subsidies.

“We’ve seen a real shift in customer perception of electric vehicles, and our demand is the best we’ve ever seen,” Chief Executive Elon Musk said Monday on an investor call.

Tesla on Monday said revenue in the first quarter jumped around 74% from the same period a year earlier to US$10.4 billion. The company generated a US$438 million net profit, up from $16 million a year ago. Wall Street on average expected the company to report sales of about $10.5 billion and net income of around $509 million for the January through March period, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Tesla said it delivered 184,877 vehicles in the first three months of the year, more than double the number during the same period a year earlier. The company, which delivered nearly half a million vehicles in 2020, reaffirmed it expects that figure to rise more than 50% this year.

The company’s strong financial start to the year comes as it faces challenges on other fronts. Federal auto-safety officials are investigating the fatal fiery crash of a Model S sedan earlier this month in Texas. Neither of the victims was found in the driver’s seat, local officials have said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s probe of the wreck is one of more than two dozen investigations of crashes involving Tesla vehicles.

The crash left questions about whether or how the vehicle could have been operating without anyone in the driver’s seat.

A Tesla executive said the company was working with local and federal authorities to investigate what happened.

The car’s steering wheel, he said on the call, was found to be deformed, “leading to the likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.” All the seat belts, post crash, were found to be unbuckled, he said. Tesla wasn’t able to recover data from the car’s memory device.

Tesla conducted a study along with authorities in which the company tried to replicate the likely crash scenario, the executive said. The company said that a driver assistance feature that helps with steering didn’t engage in the test, while another feature, adaptive cruise control, only activated when a driver was buckled in and traveling at above 5 miles per hour.

Mark Herman, the constable whose precinct the crash happened in, declined to comment on Tesla’s statement that someone likely was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash, saying that the incident remained under investigation.

Tesla has also faced parts shortages that led the company to briefly shut down its Fremont, Calif., factory in February. Rivals such as General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG have had to idle some production capacity because of a global semiconductor shortage.

“We were able to navigate through global chip-supply shortage issues in part by pivoting extremely quickly to new microcontrollers,” the company said in a note to shareholders, adding that it also was devising new software for chips made by new suppliers.

Mr. Musk said the past quarter “had some of the most difficult supply chain challenges that we’ve ever experienced.” Those go beyond computer chips, he said. China production was held back because key engineers couldn’t travel there because of Covid-19 related quarantine restrictions, he said. Some of the effects are likely to last in the current and following quarter, he said.

Tesla said it had successfully lowered the cost of making cars, helping offset a decline in the average price of its vehicles.

The company’s bottom line also benefited from several factors not directly linked to car sales. Its financial results have been aided by the sale of regulatory credits to rival auto makers that need them to comply with emissions-related rules. Such credits brought in $518 million in the most recent quarter, up from $354 million during the year-earlier period. Tesla has previously said it doesn’t expect such sales to be a material part of its business.

The company also said it saw a positive earnings effect from the sale of bitcoin in the period. Tesla bought $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency in the first quarter and sold 10% of that, Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn said. The company is now accepting bitcoin as payment for products sold in the U.S.

Mr. Kirkhorn said the company opted to invest in bitcoin when it was looking for a place to store cash it didn’t immediately need as a way to preserve liquidity while also earning a return. “It is our intent to hold what we have long-term and continue to accumulate bitcoin from transactions from our customers as they purchase vehicles,” he said on the investor call.

Tesla’s success in popularizing electric vehicles transformed the company into the world’s most valuable car maker. Its success also spurred legacy car makers and startups alike to develop competing models, some of which are showing early signs of eroding Tesla’s market share.

In the U.S., for example, Tesla vehicles accounted for roughly 70% of the all-electric vehicles sold in the first quarter, according to the research firm Cox Automotive Inc. That is down from about 82% during the same period a year earlier.

Tesla’s stock soared more than eightfold last year. It is up roughly 4.5% in 2021 after advancing 1.2% on Monday ahead of results. The stock retreated more than 2% in after-hours trading.

Global demand for electric vehicles continues to increase, though, and Tesla is adding production capacity to keep pace. The company said it remains on track to begin producing vehicles this year at its new car plants near Austin, Texas, and outside Berlin, its first in Europe. Tesla has expanded capacity at its first overseas plant in Shanghai and began delivering China-made Model Y vehicles this year after kicking off with the Model 3 sedan in 2019.

China has been a growth engine for Tesla, helping to lift the company to its first full-year profit last year. But the company has hit a rough patch in the market recently. Chinese authorities summoned Tesla in February over consumer quality complaints. The government also restricted the use of Tesla vehicles by military personnel as well as employees at key state-owned companies over data-security concerns.

Earlier this month, a single protester with a disputed claim about the safety of Tesla’s vehicles drew widespread attention across the Chinese internet, which is closely controlled by the government.

Tesla has apologized for its treatment of some customers in China and said it would do better. Mr. Musk said last month that Tesla would be shut down if it used its vehicles to spy, which he said was “a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential.”

Tesla also reaffirmed that it expects to deliver its first semitrailer trucks to customers in 2021, two years after initially planned. Mr. Musk said in January that the company didn’t have enough battery cells to go into production with the vehicle.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 26, 2021



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .