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Is Tesla Stock a Buy Ahead of Earnings?

By Daniel Sparks – Apr 19, 2020 at 7:01AM

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Shares have been rebounding sharply, more than doubling since mid-March.

Many companies' quarterly updates will be worth watching this earnings season. The main question on investors' minds for virtually all of these updates will be the same: How is the coronavirus pandemic impacting business? This is especially a concern for Tesla (TSLA 0.45%) investors. After all, the electric-car maker's factory in California isn't even manufacturing vehicles right now, as the factory has been shut down as part of a broader effort to help fight against the coronavirus.

Another question many Tesla investors likely have is whether or not they should buy shares of the electric-car maker before its earnings report later this month. After all, shares of the growth stock are on a tear, more than doubling since mid-March. Some investors, therefore, may feel they are missing out.

Tesla's Model S, 3, X, and Y

Image source: Tesla.

Here's a preview of what to expect from Tesla's earnings report on April 29, as well as a look at whether or not investors should buy the stock before earnings.

Tesla Q1 earnings: what to watch

Thanks to the company's recent update on vehicle deliveries, we already know Tesla's first-quarter financial performance will likely be impressive on a year-over-year basis. Management said in an update earlier this month that the electric-car maker delivered about 88,400 vehicles in Q1, up 40% year over year. This massive increase in deliveries will likely provide a nice tailwind to both revenue and earnings. On average, analysts are estimating Tesla's revenue to rise 32% year over year and its non-GAAP loss per share to improve from $2.90 in the year-ago period to $0.18. 

But investors may be more focused on any insight management will provide about Q2 and beyond, as the coronavirus pandemic didn't start to have a significant impact on the automaker's business until the very end of Q1. More specifically, investors will look to see if Tesla lowers its outlook for full-year deliveries to reflect the pause in vehicle production at its California factory and likely weakness in demand for luxury vehicles during these uncertain times.

Tesla had previously said it expected to deliver more than 500,000 vehicles in 2020, up from about 368,000 in 2019. Investors should look for management to update this figure.

Should you buy Tesla stock?

Many investors who have had Tesla stock on their watchlist but haven't bought shares are likely suffering from a high level of FOMO, or a fear of missing out, right now. Shares have moved higher for 10 straight trading days in a row.

But investors should think twice before they buy the stock simply because of its recent momentum. Remember, shares are significantly more expensive today than they were as recently as mid-March. This makes the stock a materially worse deal for investors than it was one month ago. Further, the stock is arguably priced for perfection at this level. With a $139 billion market capitalization, Tesla will need to quadruple its sales while achieving a gross profit margin of around 25% to have a shot of living up to this valuation. While this may be possible, investors may be better off waiting for a better entry point into the stock, perhaps somewhere below $700.

Of course, it's always a possibility that shares won't fall lower anytime soon or that Tesla's business can outperform everyone's expectations in the years ahead. But in uncertain times like this, it's more important than ever to limit the risk of overpaying for stocks. There are simply too many curveballs that could be thrown into the mix, including a slower-than-expected reopening of the economy, sustained weakness in consumer spending, or other potential negative outcomes from this pandemic.

Investors can get a timely update on Tesla's business and see how the company is handling the coronavirus pandemic when the automaker reports its first-quarter results on its investor relations website after the market closes on Wednesday, April 29.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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