Trading Desk: NASDAQ Earnings Engine Is Out Of Juice

Everything was riding on Tesla (TSLA) this season in terms of proving that the biggest companies in history still have the power to drive the market as a whole forward at a reasonable speed.

Sad to say, Elon Musk’s engine just didn’t have the horsepower to take Wall Street where we need to go. TSLA is down 3% since earnings, winding the stock back to where it was last summer.

The company is still growing fast. It’s just that investors are losing confidence that it will keep growing at this rate long enough to justify its still-lofty valuation.

And that’s a bad sign for the NASDAQ, where TSLA is now nearly 4% of the overall index based purely on its size . . . while accounting for the lion’s share of anticipated growth.

Musk’s company was the engine. Amazon (AMZN) is crawling its way from back-to-back operating losses and is unlikely to return to year-over-year earnings expansion until we see the current quarter’s numbers in January.

Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL) and Alphabet (GOOG) are in better shape, but I’m not going to get worked up over what could be at most 11% earnings growth for the strongest member of the group, whereas the weak links are struggling to move even half that fast.

We just don’t expect that kind of slow ride from Big Tech. In previous decades, these companies grew into giants because the operations were expanding fast enough to match the stock price.

Now, realistically, the market as a whole is growing faster than Big Tech when you factor out TSLA. If you want growth, you’ll get it in the old economy.

But there are signs TSLA isn’t growing as fast as we hoped. Sure, earnings are up a healthy 118% from last year, but that’s Elon Musk squeezing a little more profit on a smaller-than-expected revenue base.

Revenue is up 55% from last year. Three months ago, sales were booming along at a slightly faster rate. It’s still hot stuff . . . but the car is decelerating.

That’s not enough to support what’s already a 52X valuation in the long haul. A year from now, if TSLA hits all its marks, it will still be trading at 36X earnings even if the stock goes nowhere from here.

And if the stock edges up even 10% in the coming year, we’re looking at a 39X valuation. That’s expensive. You need a lot of growth to back it up before investors lose their nerve.

Maybe TSLA can keep expanding the electric car market long enough to back up that multiple. If not, this isn’t the only stock going into a stall . . . the NASDAQ as a whole will look pretty stale.