In recent weeks, they’ve been buying up shares of Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker at a breakneck pace, repeatedly setting records for one-day purchases. As of 2023, they have spent a net $13.6 billion on Tesla stock, which is approaching the all-year record of nearly $17 billion, according to Vanda Research.
Their interest in Tesla far eclipses that in any other security.
“Total retail inflows into Tesla have never been higher,” said Giacomo Pierantoni, head of data at Vanda, who added that purchases among individual investors likely contributed to the 61% increase in share price this year.
Investors in Tesla have a reputation for being loyal. They rushed to buy the dip last year when the stock cratered, and continued to pile up after bottoming out on Jan. 3. As Wednesday’s highly anticipated investor day approached, they set new records.
The five-day moving average of net one-day purchases by individual investors reached about $460 million in the last week of February, according to Vanda. The average for the second most popular security, the SPDR S&P 500 exchange-traded fund, was just under $150 million.
Three securities followed: the Invesco QQQ ETF, a Nasdaq-100 tracker; Apple Inc.
; and Amazon.com Inc.,
with interest at only a fraction of those levels.
Individual investors poured more than $500 million into Tesla stock on Wednesday ahead of investor day, which kicked off at 4 p.m. ET. The event largely failed to live up to its hype. Some investors had hoped that a new, lower-cost vehicle would be announced, but to no avail. In addition, the company said it may need to spend nearly $150 billion over the next few years to meet its long-term goal of becoming the largest automaker in the world by volume.
The stock plummeted 5.9% after the investor day on Thursday, but recouped most of those losses on Friday, closing at $197.79. Tesla shares are still down more than 50% from their all-time high of $409.97 in November 2021.
Durga Bobba, an investor who works in vaccine marketing at a pharmaceutical company, said he first bought Tesla stock in December. Mr. Bobba, who splits his time between San Francisco and Philadelphia, had been interested in Tesla for some time and said he saw an attractive entry point late last year after examining the financials. “I watched the stock go to multi-year lows and thought, ‘If I’m ever going to do it, now’s the time,’” Mr Bobba said.
“I’m a marketing guy and the broad appeal was the main reason I bought Tesla,” he added. “People love it regardless of age and gender.”
Mr. Bobba is one of many recent buyers sitting on significant profits. “I bought it for about $110 a share and I’m very happy,” he said. “I’ll probably never sell.”
Tesla shares are currently trading at about 45 times the company’s expected earnings over the next 12 months, far from their high of more than 200 times earnings, according to FactSet. During the sell-off at the end of last year, Tesla’s share price approached 19.
By comparison, the multiples for General Motors Co.
Ford Engine Co.
and the S&P 500 are 6.8, 8.5, and 17.6, respectively.
The Federal Reserve’s campaign to raise interest rates changed the calculation for Tesla and other growth stocks last year. The stock came under further pressure as 2022 drew to a close as Tesla slashed car prices and investors became more concerned that Mr. Musk was being distracted by his newly acquired Twitter Inc. The stock ended the year down 65%, its worst annual decline to date.
They rebounded in 2023 along with some of the other most speculative investments in the market, such as bitcoin and Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF.
Tesla’s recent trading stands out even compared to the madness of the 2020 and 2021 pandemic era, said Anthony Denier, CEO of online brokerage Webull Financial LLC.
“Tesla reigns supreme on our platform,” Mr Denier said. “Since December we have seen a huge volume spike.”
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The share of accounts at Webull trading Tesla rose to 18% in February from about 4% six months ago, Mr. Denier said. Trading in Tesla, which normally accounts for less than 10% of Webull’s share volume on any given day, reached about 35% of total volume in three days this year, he said.
Tesla is also one of the most popular games in the options market. Many of the largest long-term bets on Tesla are lottery transactions that require statistically unlikely moves to pay out. One of those bets is that the stock hits $825 in January 2024. Nine of the 10 most popular contracts assume the stock will rise.
Numerous other investors oppose Tesla. According to Ihor Dusaniwsky, director of predictive analysis at S3 Partners, the electric vehicle maker remains the stock with the most short positions in the US. However, short-term interest in the stock has fallen to $15 billion as of Wednesday from a peak of more than $51 billion in January 2021.
Write to Jack Pitcher at email@example.com
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