Will This Upgrade Help Tesla (TSLA) Stock Today?

Story updated at 9:55 a.m. to reflect market activity.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Tesla Motors (TSLA) was upgraded to "buy" from "hold" by Stifel Nicolaus  (SF) on Tuesday.

Shares of Tesla gained 2.9% to $277.42 in morning trading.

The analyst firm set a price target for $400 for the electric vehicle maker. Tesla can continue to defend its competitive advantage in a niche market according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst James Albertine.

"TSLA appears to have carved out a defensible niche in the global market for luxury electric vehicles, and based on our recent tour of the Fremont, CA, facility, a sizable head start with respect to production," Albertine wrote. "The key risk remains demand, in our view, but given (a) competitors' apparent unwillingness to fully invest (resources/managerial autonomy), and (b) TSLA's brand resilience in spite of high-profile accidents/fires/recalls, it seems demand deceleration may be a late decade call at the earliest."

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Separately, TheStreet Ratings team rates TESLA MOTORS INC as a Hold with a ratings score of C-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate TESLA MOTORS INC (TSLA) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed -- some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, solid stock price performance and good cash flow from operations. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including unimpressive growth in net income, poor profit margins and generally higher debt management risk."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • TSLA's very impressive revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 11.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 89.9%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, TSLA's share price has jumped by 58.52%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. Regarding the stock's future course, our hold rating indicates that we do not recommend additional investment in this stock despite its gains in the past year.
  • TESLA MOTORS INC has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, TESLA MOTORS INC continued to lose money by earning -$0.71 versus -$3.70 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.14 versus -$0.71).
  • The gross profit margin for TESLA MOTORS INC is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 34.80%. Regardless of TSLA's low profit margin, it has managed to increase from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, TSLA's net profit margin of -8.04% significantly underperformed when compared to the industry average.
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Automobiles industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 102.9% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from -$30.50 million to -$61.90 million.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: TSLA Ratings Report

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Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

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