Musk says the U.S. is headed for a ‘stormy’ recession—but Tesla will shrug off ‘stock market craziness’ and become the ‘most valuable company on Earth’

Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany.
Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany.
Maja Hitii/Getty Images

A recession, stagflation, “a variant of another Great Depression”: The forecasts for the U.S. economy this year haven’t exactly been rosy—and Elon Musk has been a leading voice sounding the alarm.

“It does seem like we’re headed into a recession here in 2023,” Musk said during an episode of the “All-In Podcast” released last week. “My best guess is that we have stormy times for a year to a year-and-a-half.” But while Musk believes a recession is on the way, he still has faith that Tesla will survive and come out on the other side stronger than ever—or at least that’s what he’s telling his staff.

“Long-term, I believe very much that Tesla will be the most valuable company on Earth!” the billionaire CEO wrote in an email to Tesla employees on Wednesday, Reuters reported, amidst a month that saw the electric vehicle maker head towards its worst year ever in the markets. 

Tesla shares soared roughly 8% on Thursday, putting in another strong performance after snapping a seven-session losing streak on Wednesday. But the stock is still down nearly 70% this year, and some analysts have warned that demand issues, rising interest rates, and increasing competition in the EV market could lead to even more problems next year.

Even Wedbush’s tech analyst Dan Ives, a well-known Tesla bull, slashed his lofty price target for the company last week from $250 to $175, citing demand issues. 

“The reality is that after a Cinderella story demand environment since 2018 Tesla is facing some serious macro and company specific EV competitive headwinds into 2023 that are starting to emerge both in the US and China,” he wrote. “Tesla is cutting prices and inventory is starting to build globally in face of a likely global recession.”

Tesla recently paused production at its Shanghai plant and implemented discounts on vehicles in the U.S. and China. And the stock has dropped over 30% this month alone amid Musk’s $44 billion Twitter purchase.

Ives said that investors are worried that Musk is “asleep at the wheel from a leadership perspective” because he is too focused on Twitter. But Musk told his staff this week not to be “too bothered by stock market craziness” or analysts’ forecasts.

“As we demonstrate continued excellent performance, the market will recognize that,” he wrote, instead urging employees to focus on ramping up deliveries at the end of this quarter. “Please go all out for the next few days and volunteer to help deliver if at all possible. It will make a real difference!”

And the company’s faithful following of retail investors continues to back Musk. Net purchases of Tesla stock in the fourth quarter—and in December—hit record highs, data from Vanda Research shows.

But at the same time, Musk told investors to prepare for a downturn and avoid placing too many risky bets in the stock market during these trying times.

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” he said on the “All-In Podcast.” “Don’t get too adventurous. From a cash standpoint, keep powder dry.”

Musk also offered a tip for navigating turbulent markets: avoid margin loans (debt used to buy stocks). 

It’s an interesting piece of advice, because Musk knows a bit about margin loans himself, having used a $12.5 billion margin lending facility to purchase Twitter, saddling the company with $1.2 billion in interest payments over the next 12 months alone. The billionaire, who recently lost the title of world’s richest man amid Tesla’s decline, has used margin loans for years, with so much of his wealth tied to his firms’ performance in the equity markets.

Musk has been forced to sell billions of dollars of Tesla stock to fund his Twitter purchase and margin lending debt. He’s recommending retail investors take a more conservative approach.

“I really advise people to not have margin debt in a volatile stock market,” he warned last week. “If there’s mass panic in the stock market, then you’ve got to really be careful about margin debt.”

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