Traders are stocking up on Tesla 'crash protection' ahead of the electric-car maker's Q1 results

Xinhua via Getty ImagesElon Musk.
  • Tesla‘s first-quarter earnings are due out on Wednesday.
  • Ahead of the report, investors are mounting fresh bets against the electric-car maker.
  • Notable trades executed last week suggest Tesla shares could fall to lows not seen since 2016.
  • Watch Tesla trade live.

Bets against Tesla are mounting ahead of the electric-car maker’s highly anticipated first-quarter earnings due out on Wednesday.

Investors executed notably bearish options trades last week, according to a Susquehanna Financial Group analysis. The two trades express investors’ belief that the stock – already under pressure this year amid heightened concern from Wall Street analysts – could fall by as much as 24% over the coming months.

These trades are bets that Tesla shares could fall below $US230 or even $US200 a share – a level they haven’t seen since December 2016. Shares were trading just above $US263 apiece early Monday.

Specifically, investors last Thursday bought 5,000 weekly puts expiring on April 26 with a strike price of $US200 for $US0.23 apiece and 5,000 monthly puts expiring in late June with a strike price of $US230 for $US8.50 apiece. Buying a put gives an investor the right to sell a specified number of shares at a set price in the future.

“The Apr26 flow trading may be viewed as a type of ‘crash protection’ in that an investor now has the right to sell 500k shares if stock is $US200 or lower (~27% lower from Thursday’s levels) at the end of this week,” Alison Edwards, a derivatives strategist at Susquehanna, said in an email to Markets Insider.

The weekly puts that expire on Friday will be worthless if Tesla finishes the week trading above $US200 a share. The monthly June puts will expire worthless if Tesla shares trade higher than $US230 apiece at the close on June 21.

To be sure, Edwards said this isn’t unusual options volume in the name, and is not necessarily indicative of overall trading sentiment. The 22-day average daily volume in Tesla options is 220,000 contracts – 103,000 calls and 118,000 puts, she said.

Thursday’s trades came as the asset manager T. Rowe Price, one of Tesla’s largest shareholders, dumped 92% of its position, according to data out last week from Refinitiv. That marked the second straight quarter that T. Rowe pared down its Tesla holdings, which are now half of what they were in the fourth quarter.

Read more:

One of Tesla’s biggest investors has slashed its stake once again

Tesla shares fell nearly 4% on Monday after Evercore ISI downgraded its rating and slashed its price target to $US240 a share from $US330. Tesla also said in a filing last Friday that four board members would leave their posts at the end of their respective terms.

On Wednesday, Elon Musk-led electric-car maker is expected to post an adjusted loss of $US0.90 a share on revenue of $US5.27 billion, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, Musk said it was unlikely Tesla would achieve profitability in the first-quarter – a reversal from the company’s prior expectation.

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