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What is up with Tesla’s value?


And a bunch of other stocks, for that matter

The last year taught us that the connection between the stock market and the economy is imprecise at best.

Despite some useful commentary underscoring the two are at least somewhat linked, it’s clear that many Americans can lose their jobs and financial security at the same time that stocks can keep on rising like the boom times will never end.

It seems that today’s market is willing to value stocks not on their past performance, current performance or analyst-expected future performance but on the rosiest future that investors have imagined for their favorite companies.

That’s the macro picture; 2021 is teaching us its microcorollary — smaller groups of stocks can keep rising regardless of what is going on with their fundamentals.

And in the micro-micro case, that Tesla’s value is unlimited, because [fill in your reasons here].

To avoid all useless Twitter whining, yes, Tesla’s ability to turn GAAP profits — albeit at times by selling regulatory credits — is a win, and joining the S&P 500 is great. Delivering 500,000 cars in 2020, a full 75% of GM’s third-quarter deliveries, is impressive as well.

I am certainly not arguing that Tesla is worthless, or that the group of companies like those that comprise the ARK Innovation ETF, are all overpriced. Instead, it seems that today’s market is willing to value stocks not on their past performance, current performance or analyst-expected future performance but on the rosiest future that investors have imagined for their favorite companies.

You can see elements of this logic at work if you ever talk about stocks on the internet. Don’t call Tesla a car company, for example — this despite automotive revenues making up nearly 87% of the company’s Q3 top line. Tesla is a battery company, its religious fans will tell you.

That’s why it’s fine to pay 31x sales for Tesla, while GM is worth 0.5348x sales today. Amazon, for comparison, is worth 4.6x sales. Tesla shares are valued like Twilio’s own in terms of their price-sales ratio, but the difference is that the car company had gross margins of 23.5% in Q3 2020, while the software company managed twice that. And Twilio is growing more quickly.



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