Is Tesla the next Enron? One hedge-fund manager charts a gloomy path

There’s more than enough to get distracted by — and be nervous about — over the next few days, but judging from the upbeat premarket action on Monday, investors aren’t exactly scrambling around to load up on risk-off assets.

Geopolitics aside, hope abounds that the next leg up could be fueled by what corporate leaders have to say this week regarding their quarterly results.

“It is still early in the earnings season, and as we hear from the CEOs we will find out if the market will refocus on fundamentals and away from the macro news,” says Jill Carey Hall, equity strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Tesla however, doesn’t report its results for a while. Until then, you can expect the FUD to keep flying as the haters tangle with the Musk faithful — and Musk himself — over where the company is ultimately headed.

Count Harris Kupperman of Praetorian Capital among those outspoken bears, and, just like renowned short-seller Jim Chanos did late last year, he recently compared Tesla to one of the biggest fails Wall Street’s ever seen — Enron.

He used this overlay, our chart of the day, to illustrate his prediction:

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Elon Musk relishes the opportunity to return fire at his critics, like when he recently threw shade at the Economist for questioning Tesla’s stability:

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That hardly convinced Kupperman.

“He hasn’t hit on any target or deliverable with any sort of reliability for years now. Why should I believe him now?” he writes.

“Remember in 2016 when he said they’d be profitable and didn’t need any more money?

Or when they said that in 2017? He’ll probably be saying the same thing at the bankruptcy hearing.”

Musk’s backers also enjoy fighting back against the non-believers.

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry, for instance, sent a note to clients last week in which he wrote: “Betting against Elon Musk is not only insane but total stupidity — equivalent to committing a ‘career suicide.’”

Key market gauges

The Dow, Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are all up nicely in midday trading. European markets had a tougher time getting a foothold. Asia closed mostly lower, led by Hong Kong and China stocks.

Gold is pretty much flat, while crude, is off well over 1% as investors watch out for happens next in the Middle East.

See the Market Snapshot column for more.

The buzz

Donald Trump is in full freak-out mode after James Comey’s interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday night, which came after excerpts emerged ahead of the release of the former FBI director’s upcoming book.

“Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country,” Comey said. “The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”

Meanwhile, Biden 2020? He’s not ruling it out.

WPP chief Martin Sorrell has stepped down after getting royally angry at a probe into alleged misconduct. U.S.-listed WPP shares are under pressure.

Watch ETFs related to Russian stocks, like VanEck Vectors Russia, after U.N. ambassdor Nikki Haley said the U.S. will slap more sanctions on the country. Russian aluminum giant Rusal slumped 30% in Hong Kong overnight.

Starbucks has had a rough weekend. A viral video of two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia store for “trespassing” prompted #BoycottStarbucks to trend. Now CEO Kevin Johnson has called the situation a “reprehensible outcome” and says he wanted to offer a “face-to-face apology.”

The quote

“The notion that I’ve got to fly first class because I don’t want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don’t want people to be mean to you. Like maybe a monk.” — Trey Gowdy, talking about Scott Pruitt on Fox News.

Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is leading a probe into Pruitt’s use of taxpayer money, including $105,000 on first-class travel during his first year on the job as EPA administrator.

Earnings

It’s going to be a busy week, with Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley  giving color on the financial sector.

There’s also the likes of IBM and GE, to name just a few of S&P companies to report in the coming days. Netflix, in particular, should garner some eyeballs after the close today.

The stat

2,000% — That’s the rate of increase in the number of Russian internet trolls getting active since the attacks on Syria, according to the Pentagon.

The call

It’s hard to deny the threat automation poses to jobs around the world, but tech visionary and Google engineer Ray Kurzweil recently went into the silver lining: basic income. Kurzweil says the controversial notion of everybody getting free money will be common by the early 2030s, according to a report from Axios.

And there won’t be just enough to cover base needs, he told a crowd at the TED conference in Vancouver. “You will be able to live very well on that,” he says.

This turning point will take place shortly after artificial intelligence passes the Turing Test, meaning judges won’t be able to tell whether they’re talking to a human or a computer.

“In the 2030s,” Kurzweil says, “we will merge with the intelligent technology we are creating” and “we will have an indefinite expansion of our neocortex.”

The economy

This week kicks off with March retail sales at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, with the New York Fed Empire State manufacturing survey hitting at the same time.

Then, at 10 a.m., the April NAHB homebuilder survey is released, alongside business inventories.

On Tuesday, we’ll get a look at housing starts. 

 

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