Tesla Stock Stalls After Model 3 Production Delay

TSLA short sellers could be using calls to hedge

Managing Editor
Jan 4, 2018 at 9:55 AM
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Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock is down 2.9% to trade at $308.02 this morning, after the electric car company once again pushed back its production goal for its new Model 3. Tesla now expects to produce 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of this quarter -- half of what it earlier forecast -- and won't hit its target of 5,000 Model 3s until the second quarter. In addition, the car concern's fourth-quarter delivery stats fell short of estimates.

Although TSLA stock has tacked on roughly 35% year-over-year, the equity has struggled lately, shedding 21% since touching a record high of $389.61 on Sept. 18. Furthermore, Tesla stock has underperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) during the past three months, and its 50-day and 200-day moving averages recently made a "death cross."

As a result of the recent weakness, short sellers continue to hang around. Short interest increased by 3.6% during the last two reporting periods, to a record high 31.22 million shares. This represents over a quarter of TSLA's total available float, and a little over a week's worth of pent-up buying demand, at the stock's average daily trading volume.

Tesla calls continue to be popular in the options pits. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), TSLA's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 1.50 sits 2 percentage points from an an annual high. In other words, options buyers haven't picked up Tesla calls over puts at a faster clip during the past 12 months. However, given the heavy presence of short sellers, the recent call demand could be shorts hedging their bearish bets with out-of-the-money options.

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