Weekly Wrap: Markets Treading Water While Economic Data Sinks

Monday, the markets were unsurprisingly quiet. With the bulk of earnings season in the rear view mirror, save for a few remaining big names, the summer doldrums and vacations led to the day having the third lowest trading volume of the year at just 2.6 billion shares, compared to the 3.5 billion daily average for all of 2018. The Nasdaq managed to hold onto its second-highest close in history, less than 1% away from its all-time closing high thanks to a 4.5% jump in Facebook (FB) shares on the news that the company is looking to work with banks to help facilitate transactions on its platform – while this meshes with our expanding Digital Lifestyle investment theme, it also cues up the nerves of having one’s social media presence now linked to one’s financials.

Tuesday, the market news was dominated by a tweet from Elon Musk concerning taking Telsa (TSLA) private at $420 a share. Yep, the CEO of a publicly traded company announced that he was mulling taking the company private at a specific share price and that funding was already locked up. First, I’m pretty sure that Twitter’s (TWTR) Sales Department regularly sends fruit baskets to Elon and Trump. Second, Tesla’s Investor Relations department and Corporate Council must have Xanax dispensers on their desks.

Shares were already on the move for the day after news that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund had taken a $2 billion stake in the company, according to the Financial Times. The major news outlets all scrambled to get some clarification from Tesla’s Investor Relations department, who could only confirm that the tweets did in fact originate from Elon Musk himself.

Trading of shares of Tesla was halted until 3:45 ET, during which time a Tesla blog post was released containing Elon’s email to employees in which he shared that, “”A final decision has not yet been made, but the reason for doing this is all about creating the environment for Tesla to operate best.” In his letter Elon Musk claimed that the wild swings in the share price “can be a major distraction,” the quarterly earnings cycle making the focus on the short-term rather than what is in the company’s long-term best interest and that the company is the target of short sellers. While true, I would raise the counter point that perhaps a CEO should not be so focused on the share price and instead focus on the long-term strategy driving the business.

It remains to be seen if any of the short-sellers that he mentioned decide to go after Elon for damages or if the SEC will find him guilty of attempting to manipulate the share price. Former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt told CNBC that, “the use of a specific price for a potential going private transaction is highly unprecedented and therefore raises significant questions about what his intent was. So, that would have to be investigated.”

The fallout around Elon’s tweets have, I’m sure much to the chagrin of the 49ers new quarterback, replaced Mr. Garoppolo, (at least temporarily) with @matt_peach1 as the top candidate for the next Mr. Hawkins.

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