The stock market looked like it was essentially ready to call an end to 2021 on Wednesday, with extremely modest moves in stock index futures. As of 8:30 a.m. ET today, Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -1.63%) futures were down 9 points to 36,273, while S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.65%) futures were up a single point to 4,780. Futures on the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) advanced 17 points to 16,505.
Making news was Tesla (TSLA -3.25%), as CEO Elon Musk continued to make stock and options transactions before year-end. However, the electric vehicle company's share price didn't make big moves in pre-market trading Wednesday morning. Reacting to a much greater extent were Victoria's Secret (VSCO -2.27%) and FuelCell Energy (FCEL -5.03%), both of which had more-substantial things to say to shareholders.
Tax planning for Musk
Shares of Tesla were up less than 1% Wednesday morning. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Tuesday showed that Musk had exercised options on 1.6 million shares of Tesla stock. That move accompanied sales of about $1 billion in shares, with the likely intent of using the proceeds to cover tax liability from the options exercise.
Musk's extensive sales have served a couple of purposes. They've accelerated considerable income into 2021, in advance of the possibility that significant federal income tax increases could come in 2022. They might also have helped to diversify Musk's holdings, which until now have been highly concentrated in equity interests in Tesla and his business ventures. Both make sense from a financial planning standpoint, but it's hard to draw a firm conclusion about what message shareholders should take.
Victoria's Secret buys back stock
Victoria's Secret shares moved higher by a sharper margin, climbing 9% in pre-market trading Wednesday. The apparel company announced that it would do a $250 million repurchase of its stock, showing its optimism about its prospects.
Victoria's Secret used what's known as an accelerated share repurchase agreement, buying back about 4.1 million shares in a single block, with an expected transaction date of Dec. 31. Minor adjustments could be made later on, but the agreement returns capital to shareholders more quickly than a standard open-market buyback authorization typically would.
Also, the company said that it still stands by the fourth-quarter sales and earnings guidance it gave back in November, citing strong Thanksgiving sales and a good performance in the last week of the holiday shopping season. That bodes well for Victoria's Secret and its prospects heading into 2022.
Losing its charge
Meanwhile, shares of FuelCell Energy dropped more than 14% Wednesday morning. The fuel cell technology company announced fiscal fourth-quarter results that didn't give shareholders the confidence they had hoped to have.
The numbers from FuelCell didn't look good. Revenue fell 18% year over year to just $13.9 million. Net losses ballooned by 27% to nearly $25 million, and only a sizable increase in shares outstanding allowed the per-share loss figure to drop slightly from year-ago levels.
However, FuelCell did note that with no module exchanges during the quarter, service-agreement and license-related revenue was completely wiped out. Generation revenue jumped 31%, while revenue from advanced technologies contracts was higher by 14%.
Even so, investors have been counting on FuelCell getting into high-growth mode. Today's drop in the stock price shows how disappointed shareholders are at not seeing the boost in FuelCell's business that they wanted.