Tesla Inc. (TSLA) has been an exercise in patience for both the bulls and bears this year.
On the one hand, this stock has been the most heavily shorted issue on the Nasdaq pretty much all year long, yet shares have rallied more than 54% since the calendar flipped to January.
On the other hand, Tesla has been in the top quintile of Nasdaq 100 stocks from a performance standpoint in 2017, yet nearly all of that performance came in the first half of the year. Since the end of June, Tesla's share price is down more than 13%.
Simply put, Tesla is sort of a "tale of two stocks" right now. The question is which of those two profiles -- leader or laggard -- Tesla is going to follow in the months ahead.
To figure that out, we're turning to the chart for a technical look at what's happening in shares of Tesla.
Put simply, Tesla is in "make-or-break-mode" right now.
In other words, investors are going to find out fairly soon which way this electric car giant is going to resolve itself.
Tesla has really spent the entire timeframe since the start of April in consolidation mode, tracking sideways between support down at $300 and resistance up at $380. Those key price levels have corralled approximately 99% of Tesla's price action in the intervening trading sessions, and maybe more importantly, they identify the do-not-cross lines in Tesla's price action right now.
Simply put, if Tesla violates $300 support, we've got a strong sell signal in shares. Conversely, if Tesla can muster the strength to break above $380, we've got a brand-new buy signal.
The lower highs and lows since mid-summer add some extra context for what could happen to Tesla's price tag, if $300 does get violated from here. But the horizontal consolidation channel is the more plausible price trend at this point.
Relative strength, the indicator down at the bottom of Tesla's price chart, adds some extra context to what we're seeing in the price action. Long term, Tesla's holding onto higher lows from the start of 2017, while relative strength has been trending lower in the intermediate-term. As that relative strength line reaches the apex of those two trends, it should provide an early warning as to whether Tesla holds onto its leadership position, or whether it's likely to become a serial underperformer in 2018.
For now, it's a little too early to tell which way Tesla's price trend is going to resolve. But the key for Tesla bulls is this: If shares violate $300, you don't want to own it anymore.
More of What's Trending on TheStreet: