Before the Bell: Apple, Tesla, Salesforce, Gold; Volkswagen in Las Vegas

Premarket action on Wednesday had all three major U.S. indexes trading higher. The Dow Jones industrials were up 0.25%, the S&P 500 up 0.33% and the Nasdaq 0.52% higher. This was how Tuesday started, but not how it ended.

Six of 11 market sectors closed lower Tuesday, with energy (−3.63%) and technology (−1.01%) falling the most. Communication services (1.39%) posted the day’s only gain of more than 1%. The Dow closed down 0.03%, the S&P 500 0.4% lower and the Nasdaq down 0.76% on Friday.

Trading volume picked up again Tuesday, exceeding its five-day average. New York Stock Exchange winners led losers by a margin of 3 to 2, while Nasdaq advancers led decliners by an 11-to-10 margin. Newmont Corp. (NYSE: NEM) posted the day’s largest gain (5.04%) in sympathy with a rally in gold prices, and Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) posted the biggest drop (12.2%).

On the economic front, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) releases its December manufacturing index after markets open Wednesday morning. Economists expect the index to contract further from a 49% reading in November to 47.5%.

Now, though, back to Tesla. The company’s production and delivery report missed expectations, and investors did not like that much at all. They liked even less J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brinkman’s research note on the company.

Brinkman cut his $150 price target on the stock to $125 (shares closed at $108.10 Tuesday, after posting a new 52-week low of $104.65) and maintained his Underweight (i.e., Sell) rating on the stock. Brinkman also questions Tesla’s ability to meet its planned annual growth of 50% until it is the world’s largest carmaker.

One believer in Tesla’s long-term growth story is Cathie Wood of ARK Investment. The ARK Innovation ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: ARKK) added nearly 145,000 shares to its Tesla holdings Tuesday. The fund now holds about 3.55 million shares of Tesla stock. Shares of Tesla traded higher by about 1% early Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Volkswagen has offered a first look at its coming ID.7 sedan. The car’s QR-like camouflage paint is electroluminescent, but that will all come off in due time when VW decides to show off the latest of the 10 new electric vehicles the company expects to launch into the market by 2026.

In a letter to employees Wednesday morning, Salesforce Inc. (NYSE: CRM) CEO Marc Benioff announced a reduction of about 10% in the company’s workforce and the closure of an unspecified number of offices as it restructures. The company expects to take a charge of $1.4 billion to $2.1 billion, including up to $1 billion in its fourth quarter of fiscal 2023 ending this month. In his statement, Benioff said that Salesforce had hired too many people “leading into this economic downturn we’re now facing, and I take responsibility for that.” Salesforce stock traded up nearly 3% in Wednesday’s premarket session.

The market cap of the world’s most valuable company, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) dropped below $2 trillion on Tuesday, the first time it has visited those depths in seven quarters. Delayed iPhone production and expected weaker demand as the economy hits the brakes are taking their toll. Without growth, investors worry that Apple remains overvalued and will have to fall further. After dropping 3.7% on Tuesday, shares traded up about 0.7% in Wednesday’s premarket.

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