Tesla Down 20% From Record High Following Report of SEC Probe

(Bloomberg) - Tesla Inc.’s shares reversed most of their earlier losses to close with a slight drop, shrugging off a report that regulators opened an investigation into the electric-vehicle company.

The stock fell as much as 6.4% to $950.50 in morning trading in New York. That was a 23% decline from the record closing high of $1,229.91 touched barely a month ago on Nov. 4. A stock is said to enter a bear market when it falls 20% on a closing basis.

Tesla’s market value also briefly fell below $1 trillion for the first time since it hit that level on Oct. 25. However, the stock pared its decline to closed down 0.6% with a market value of $1.01 billion.

Reuters reported Monday that the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into Tesla over whistle-blower claims on solar panel defects, citing a letter from the agency. The New York Times also reported that Tesla engineers questioned the safety of the company’s Autopilot system, which is the subject of an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“The solar business has been a disaster for the Tesla story and the Street continues to be frustrated by this business segment,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said, adding that it increases the nervousness among investors at a time when the broader the market is seeing turbulence for high-valuation names.

Tesla has been on a tough run starting Dec. 1 when a combination of fear about the omicron variant of the coronavirus and a hawkish message from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell gripped markets. These factors weighed especially heavily on technology stocks and the so-called momentum names and Tesla fell over 11% in the final three trading days of last week.

A steady offloading of the shares by the company’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who has now sold off more than $10 billion worth of stock, has also been a drag on investor sentiment.

Given Musk still has a ways to go before selling 10% of his stake -- as discussed in a Twitter poll early November -- Tesla shares may continue to be volatile in the coming weeks.

Tesla shares are up 43% this year, compared to a 22% climb in the S&P 500 Index.

Most of those gains came from a surge in October after a rush of positive news -- including strong results for the third quarter and a big order from rental-car company Hertz Global Holdings Inc.

Other EV stocks were mixed Monday, with newly public Rivian Automotive Inc. gaining 12%. Lucid Group Inc. tumbled as much as 19% after disclosing that it received a subpoena from the SEC on Friday. It closed down 5.1%.

By Esha Dey


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