Retail investors' bullishness for Tesla is the highest in 2 years ahead of vote on EV maker's stock split

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during an event to launch the new Tesla Model X Crossover SUV on September 29, 2015 in Fremont, California.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk with Tesla Model X Crossover SUV.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Purchases of Tesla stock by retail investors have been "skyrocketing," Vanda Research said on Wednesday.

  • The stock price has soared ahead of the EV maker's vote Thursday on a stock-split proposal.

  • Tesla's stock price surged 32% in July, cutting into a year-to-date loss.

Individual investors have been piling into Tesla shares as they prepare for a potential split of the electric vehicle maker's stock, and their purchases have contributed to a recent upswing in the broader US market, according to a research firm.

"[Tesla purchases] are skyrocketing — retail investors have never been so bullish since summer '20," Vanda Research said in a weekly note published Wednesday. Net retail purchases of Tesla reached $693 million in the previous five sessions, with the maker of electric-powered sedans and SUVs topping Vanda's weekly retail-flow tracker. Apple occupied the second spot, at $379 million.

"We suspect that the strong buying activity followed the 3-for-1 stock split proposal," which goes to a shareholder vote on Thursday. Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk, in June proposed a 3-for-1 stock split to triple the number of shares to 6 billion.

"Although a stock split shouldn't have an impact on the stock price, retail investors speculate on the fact that historically stocks rallied after the split announcement," said Vanda. "If the split will be confirmed, we could even see an acceleration of inflows – which could push the stock price higher."

Tesla shares traded at around $920 each on Wednesday. The stock remained down by roughly 13% on a year-to-date basis but a rally in July helped slice into that decline. Tesla stock last month soared 32%, ending at $891.45.

The jump was part of a broader rally in US stocks in July that drove the  Nasdaq Composite up 12.3% and the S&P 500 up by 9.1%, their best monthly performance since November 2020.

Vanda sees retail investors' flows as a major driver of the market's rebound in the last few days, aggregate buying has been consistently above the year-to-date average of $1.36 billion. Those investors have been focusing on Tesla and other "classic tech stocks" such as Nvidia, Apple, AMD, and Amazon, it said.

The second-quarter earnings season and positive performance of the equity market have drawn attention to single names rather than generic equity ETFs, the firm said.

"We suspect that retail investors will continue to buy mainly single stocks and Tech over the next days or weeks – as long as the rally consolidates," it said. "However, the pick-up in risk sentiment is likely to be fragile given the YTD large portfolio losses - we believe that they could capitulate if the S&P 500 re-tests the lows."

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