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Tesla stock ‘is oversold’ and that's 'a big tell' for the market, strategist says

Interactive Brokers Chief Strategist Steve Sosnick joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the scrutiny Tesla is facing as Elon Musk focuses on running Twitter, how China’s COVID-19 lockdowns are affecting Apple stock, and the outlook for markets.

Video Transcript

BRAD SMITH: We're watching some big calls this morning on Tesla. Shares of TSLA are on the move here pre-market. Morgan Stanley saying Tesla is presenting a buying opportunity as it approaches analyst Adam Jones's bear case-- Jonas's bear csase, excuse me-- a price target of $150. Citi, meanwhile, upgrading the stock to neutral from sell, as it notes long-term competitiveness. Let's bring in Steve Sosnick, Interactive Brokers chief strategist for all things tech and Tesla. Steve, great to have you here with us on set.

STEVE SOSNICK: So good to be here, Brad. Absolutely.

BRAD SMITH: So when we think about Tesla and where the stock has continued to move as a result of Musk's attention that he's placed on Twitter right now, too, what do you surmise as perhaps the next or anticipate that the next big shoe to drop is over at Tesla? And have we already seen some of the bottoms?

STEVE SOSNICK: I think we've seen a big-- obviously, we've seen a big drop. The problem is Elon Musk has always been spread very thin. He was already running a car company and a rocket launching company. And now he's running a social media company. And it appears pretty clear that he's spending much of his time on social media. Can you think of any other CEO who spends that much time on social media? You really can't. Now, that's a big part of his persona. That's probably what did a lot to supercharge Tesla.

BRAD SMITH: That's their marketing engine at Tesla.

STEVE SOSNICK: Absolutely. But at some point, you start to have to wonder, A, what has he done to the brand of Tesla? Because he's been so mercurial. And B, can he be focused on all these things at once? Can one human being do it? And I think the market is saying no. The other problem, remember, also, is, think about the run it had from 2020 and 2021. So we've given back a huge amount of gains in the stock, but we still have a long way from where we started just a couple of years ago.

JULIE HYMAN: And it's interesting that calls that are being made today-- because it mostly has to do with that it's fallen enough, that it has priced in some of those concerns that you were talking about, that are clearly broadly shared by the market. And with Adam Jonas saying that Tesla is getting to his bear case price of 150, it got me thinking about just these sort of big market slumps that we have seen, and when, writ large, we have people coming back in and saying, OK, that's enough. I mean, we've had little blips of that.

STEVE SOSNICK: Well, from a longer term perspective, the stock is oversold. Speaking as a long-time trader, this is oversold. This is when you do tend to step in. I find it interesting that he's stepping in before his bear case to buy, rather than actually at the bear case target. But I guess preemptively, and he's seeing the same stock action that I am. So I'm guessing he realized it's probably not a bad place to step in as well.

But so that's, to me-- in the notes earlier this morning, the exchange, it's, why am I watching this as a big tell for the market? It's too big not to be a big tell for the same reason Apple is too big not to be a big tell. Tesla's a top 10 company, and it's a big weight in NDX. And it's a big reason NASDAQ has performed so well because it got supercharged. And you also have a lot of people, institutional and individual, who are heavily invested in the stock. And it's made them, and now it runs the risk of really being a big drag.

JULIE HYMAN: So if it turns around and starts to head higher in a more substantial fashion, is that a leading indicator for the rest of the market?

STEVE SOSNICK: Yes, because I've always felt that Tesla, to some extent, is a good read on retail sentiment, retail individual investor sentiment. It's a sexy name for so many people. And that-- yes, it got into the S&P 500, which gave it a big boost a couple of years ago. But the number of individuals who got into the stock, it's such a popular one. We've seen it with so many other stocks that have been popular with individual investors. This one kind of is the main domino out there.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, you mentioned Apple. And of course, Apple's always a very important stock, but is now, going into earnings, Apple the most important stock in the entire market, in large part because of what we're seeing with these China COVID cases? These China COVID cases are now starting to spike. It appears to be impacting, increasingly, Apple's results. Apple's probably not alone here.

STEVE SOSNICK: Well, that's really the key. Apple, as I mentioned with Tesla being too big to ignore, Apple's the biggest stock in the index. And so whatever they do has a big weight. Apple is, in many ways, unique because it's global. It's a consumer stock. But it's, in many ways, a utility. I mean, you know, I'm paying Apple a few bucks a month for all kinds of stuff, whether or not I'm even paying attention or not.

BRIAN SOZZI: But if Apple gets hit, if we get more lockdowns in China, is that a sign that the rest of the market could take a hit going into year end?

STEVE SOSNICK: Yes, because I do think one of the reasons that's been helping sentiment, particularly in industrial stocks and things like that, is the idea that China is going to be reopening. We've seen tremendous amounts of call buying in Alibaba and the like, the Chinese plays in the US. And so I think that if there's another wave of lockdowns in China, that really upends that story. It upends global growth potential. And so, yes, Apple could be the canary in the coal mine for that one because of that situation.

BRAD SMITH: Who are some of the other canaries in the coal mine that you would look at?

STEVE SOSNICK: I'm looking at retailers right now. And I know this is, like, playing right into Brian's wheelhouse here.

BRIAN SOZZI: Don't start with Kohl's. I can't. I need a day off of Kohl's.

STEVE SOSNICK: I actually own Kohl's.

BRIAN SOZZI: No, you-- own Kohl's shares or a pair of pants from--

STEVE SOSNICK: I actually bought a--

BRIAN SOZZI: Oh, Steve, we have always been friends.

STEVE SOSNICK: I know.

BRIAN SOZZI: We're not there anymore now.

STEVE SOSNICK: I bought it recently on the idea--

BRIAN SOZZI: Recently you bought it?

STEVE SOSNICK: A couple of months ago.

BRIAN SOZZI: Why?

STEVE SOSNICK: Sold out. Dead stock.

BRIAN SOZZI: Just a trade? It's just a trade?

STEVE SOSNICK: Just a trade.

BRIAN SOZZI: Not a fundamental thing?

STEVE SOSNICK: No.

BRIAN SOZZI: OK.

JULIE HYMAN: Don't get emotional. That's what he always says.

BRIAN SOZZI: We're still friends. OK, we're still friends.

STEVE SOSNICK: But you think about how the retailers-- how some of these retailers have acted recently. Walmart, Macy's, Best Buy-- you've gone over them a zillion times. The question is, are things that were-- expectations that bad? Are things that good? And are individuals, are customers borrowing from the future to pay for current purchases? You know, I think a lot of Walmart's success was, as you know, was groceries and people moving to Walmart from Target, let's say. That can't go on indefinitely.

And we're starting to see credit card usage go up. So I guess another big tell would be Mastercard, Visa. If people are borrowing to do this to pay higher prices at these stores, that's not really sustainable. If the economy is really much better than we thought and these are sustainable rallies, and we continue to follow through with them, then we proceed. I've always felt retail is a huge tell for the market. Consumers are still the bulk of the economy. And what do they do? They spend money, and retailers are one of the places they spend at.

BRIAN SOZZI: Just not at Kohl's, Steve. Not at Kohl's.

STEVE SOSNICK: OK. [LAUGHS]

JULIE HYMAN: There's one area that's probably no longer a tell for what retail investors are doing. And that's crypto, right? Because of what has been happening. I don't know if you heard the discussion we were having a few moments ago. So does what has happened with FTX mean that crypto as an investing space is untrustworthy? Because Bitcoin doesn't seem to be trading as though that's the perception. I mean, it would be--

BRIAN SOZZI: You're trying to [INAUDIBLE].

JULIE HYMAN: It would be nothing. It would be nothing, right?

BRIAN SOZZI: I see what you're doing.

JULIE HYMAN: It would be down even more, wouldn't it?

STEVE SOSNICK: Well, there's a lot to unpack even in a relatively short question. I think it's interesting because the whole ecosystem is based on, how can we do this without trust? You know, trustless, and the systems are supposed to provide the trust. Well, the systems still have to-- they still intersect the real world at some point. And that's where the trust comes back in.

It's tough. It's tough to see anybody saying over their Thanksgiving dinner, I think now is the time I'm going to get into crypto. You're either in it, or you're not, especially if you're an institutional adopter. Are you going to now say, you know, jeez, this is the time to really get myself into crypto with my investment funds? No, you can't go in front of an investment committee and say that, for the most part.

As for why it hasn't fallen, I have two theories. Number one is that many people would like to sell and they can't because their crypto is locked up at FTX or one of the various venues where--

JULIE HYMAN: Its frozen.

STEVE SOSNICK: --it's frozen, so you can't raise your funds that way. Secondly, remember, crypto has-- it's still dominated by a small cadre of whales. And--

JULIE HYMAN: And MicroStrategy is not selling its crypto, we know that.

STEVE SOSNICK: And wouldn't you be, if you're MicroStrategy-- I don't know what they're doing, but wouldn't you be incentivized to buy? Because if it falls much further, you already pretty much have negative equity on your books. MicroStrategy is essentially one huge warrant on crypto. Called 30,000 or so is where the strike price is. And that strike was kind of moving away-- you know, now that strike is about 100% out of the money. That's a tricky place to be in. You don't want it to get any further, especially when you've got convertible notes that still have to be paid.

JULIE HYMAN: I mean, even if you're not a whale, even if you can get your money out, do you want to sell at this kind of a loss if you've bought 20,000, 30,000, 40,000--

STEVE SOSNICK: Well, that's the--

JULIE HYMAN: --Bitcoin, for example?

STEVE SOSNICK: The whales, though, own it at 100, 200.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, exactly.

STEVE SOSNICK: You know, so it's a different perspective.

BRIAN SOZZI: Steve, real quick, favorite Thanksgiving day side. Hit me.

STEVE SOSNICK: Mashed turnips.

BRIAN SOZZI: Mashed turnips, great. All right, Steve Sosnick, Interactive Brokers chief strategist, always good to see you. Happy Thanksgiving.