What do I think? That’s what a lot of readers are asking during these volatile days… and there is, of course, no easy answer. My thoughts are all over the place, so today’s Friday File musings are going to run the gamut.
Tesla (TSLA) is a good example of how the market is treating investors right now. I’ve been looking at Tesla with disbelief for five years, never willing to invest in a cash-burning manufacturing company that’s trading like a cloud computing startup, but I never shorted it, either… and that’s because it’s extremely difficult to guess when popular opinion and sentiment will shift.
Lots of companies trade in some kind of respectable relationship to their underlying earnings or likely near-term earnings potential most of the time, and the whole market does that over very long periods of time, but there are plenty of “story” stocks like Tesla that trade primarily on sentiment and hope and their ability to capture the public’s imagination about far-future growth.
Sometimes that leads to what many folks have called a “melt-up” in stocks, when popular sentiment builds on itself to create a reality vacuum that makes it seem rational for huge companies to trade at valuations which assume ludicrous growth rates in perpetuity, and when global investors just decide they have to go “all in” on these growth stories. Though we may debate what the difference is between a “melt up” and a “bubble,” other than that folks will tell you with a straight face that you have to be part of the melt-up but don’t want to publicly endorse “bubbles,” that “melt up” is arguably what happened with the FANG stocks last year, and with the Chinese internet stocks and a few other high-profile growth stocks whose valuations became divorced from their fundamentals. And it might still be happening — we can’t know right now whether this hiccup in February and March is the end of the “melt up” of the tech sector, or if it’s just a little correction that precedes another blow-off surge to new highs.
But we do know that Tesla is finally, at least for the moment, hitting a little dose of reality because, for whatever reason, both stock and bond investors started to care about Tesla’s dicy financial position at the same time, for the first time in years… and it’s probably not a ...