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Barron's Tesla Stock Is Falling. Blame EV Profit-Taking and China.

Tesla stock was falling in early trading Monday, heading for a downbeat start to the week. Profit-taking in electric-vehicle peers as well as production data from China appear to have investors concerned.

The EV maker’s shares were down 1.4% in premarket trading at $199.80 apiece, while futures on the S&P 500 retreated 0.1% and those on the Nasdaq Composite were about flat.

Monday morning, several news outlets reported that Tesla sold about 60,400 cars from its plant in Shanghai in February. The reports cite China Passenger Car Association data that are released early each month.

That’s down about 19% year over year. In 2024, however, the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday fell in February; last year it fell in January. Over January and February, Tesla sold 132,000 cars from its plant in Shanghai, down about 6% from 2023.

BYD reported February deliveries this past week. Sales of all-battery EVs in January and February dropped about 1% year over year. BYD had a relatively stronger January and a relatively weaker February.

For the overall industry, sales of battery-EVs and plug-in hybrids are expected to be about 450,000 units in February, down about 9% from a year ago.

January and February are two of the weakest months of the year for new car sales, making it difficult to draw conclusions regarding how this year turns out. Citi analyst Jeff Chung projects Chinese battery-EV sales will grow about 16% year over year, coming in at about 7 million units for 2024.

Even with growth, competition is still fierce. Tesla and others have cut prices in China in 2024. On Friday, Tesla started offering Chinese car buyers an insurance subsidy as an additional incentive, according to a Chinese-language post on the company’s Weibo social media account. BYD also recently launched the latest version of its top-selling Yuan Plus crossover with a price 11.8% lower than the model it is replacing, according to Reuters citing a Wiebo post.

Newsletter Sign-up Elsewhere in the sector, investors in rival Li Auto may have cashed in on the big gains last week by taking profits. It ended Monday down 10.7% on the Hong Kong exchange, and its U.S.-traded American depositary receipts was falling 6.4% in the premarket. Coming into Monday trading, ADRs gained about 55% over the past month, and about 25% this past week, reacting positively to better-than-expected earnings.

For the past month into Monday trading, Tesla stock was up about 12%, better than the 4% gain of the Nasdaq over the same span.