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Tesla and Virgin Galactic Are Getting Hammered. It Isn’t Capitulation.

By Al Root February 27, 2020, 2:39 p.m. EST Posted

Highflying stocks such as Tesla and Virgin Galactic are getting hammered in the coronavirus-related stock market selloff. But it isn’t a sign of investor capitulation regarding stocks with high valuations. Bearish investors can’t claim people are coming to their senses. The worst-performing stocks are getting hit just as hard as the highflying names.
Tesla (ticker: TSLA) stock, however, is off 21% over the past week. Virgin Galactic (SPCE) is down 36% over the same span. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for comparison, is down 9.1% and the S&P 500 has dropped 8.9%.
That might sound like capitulation. What’s more, shares of large companies up more than 50% year to date are down about 16% on average over the past week.
But Tesla and Galactic shares are still up more than 85% and 100%, respectively. The average gain for stocks in the plus-50% year-to-date club is 86%.
The other highfliers are, Enphase Energy (ENPH), Sprint (S) and PG&E (PCG). Health-care stock Moderna (MRNA) just missed the cut. That stock is up a lot, but not quite 50%, because it has a potential vaccine for the coronavirus.
It isn’t capitulation at the other end of market. Beaten up shares are getting sold just as hard. Stocks that have fallen more than 30% year to date, are down 19% on average, worse than the performance of the highfliers.
There are a lot of oil and travel stocks, however, populating the bottom of the year-to-date return lists. Those sectors have been harder hit by virus fears. Excluding the oil and travel sectors, stocks suffering big 2020 losses are down about 12% over the past week. That is still worse than the overall market and only a little better than the highfliers.
This means, in part, the recent selloff appears based in fear. Investors are taking a sell first, ask questions later approach. It is painful, but it bodes well for stocks when coronavirus fears fade.

Write to Al Root at allen.root@dowjones.com

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