Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors, rubs his forehead as he stands for pictures with a Tesla Roadster outside the Nasdaq Marketsite in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

Is Tesla Going Up in Smoke?

BloombergOpinion

Today’s Agenda

Is Tesla Going Up in Smoke?

Tesla Has an Elon Musk Problem

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Elon Musk brought Tesla Inc. into this world, and he seems determined to take it out.

The billionaire’s latest self-destructive act was an appearance last night on the podcast of comedian Joe Rogan, where, among other things, Musk confirmed Bob Dylan’s thesis that “everybody must get stoned.” It’s the latest in a long chain of Musk stunts, which Liam Denning admits keeps him neck-deep in entertaining column fodder but has troubling implications for Tesla. You know, the company Musk is supposed to be running? The electric-car-maker’s stock tumbled today, as did its bonds. Its chief accounting officer quit after less than a month on the job. Its HR director followed him out and kept walking. “Tesla’s vital swing investors are backing away,” Liam writes. “The joke’s getting old.” Read the whole thing.

Musk often blames short-sellers for Tesla’s problems. And yesterday one of those, Citron Research founder Andrew Left, did in fact create a new headache for the company. He sued Tesla and Musk, claiming the billionaire’s August tweets about taking the company private were meant to manipulate the stock to burn shorts like him. Musk’s tweets did temporarily boost the stock, but also brought an SEC investigation and reinforced doubts about Musk’s fitness to run Tesla; and all those temporary gains are long gone. Still, Matt Levine suggests Left might be on to something: “Musk’s extremely public and intensely self-documented desire to burn short sellers ... is a pretty plausible explanation for why he might announce a going-private transaction without actually intending to do it.” Read the whole thing.

It’s all more fodder for the argument made by Joe Nocera recently that Musk should give up his CEO job, at least, and let somebody else – maybe ex-Ford CEO Alan Mulally – take over, before it’s too late.

The Trade Slowdown Is Already Here

The Trump administration is putting the finishing touches on a proposed $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports. You know what that means: Time for even more tariffs! President Donald Trump today said he might slap duties on another $267 billion in Chinese imports. Altogether, current and threatened tariffs would add up to more than China currently exports to the U.S., but who’s counting? Anyway, markets seem mostly unconcerned about the impact, which many investors see as theoretical and distant. But global trade has slowed down already, notes David Fickling; in fact, we’re in the middle of only the second sustained trade downturn since the recession:

Is Tesla Going Up in Smoke?

These and other numbers contradict the market’s apparent conviction that everything’s more or less fine with the global economy, David warns. Read the whole thing.

Melania Trump Throws Rocks From Glass House

Melania Trump last night criticized the anonymous op-ed writer in her husband’s administration, calling the person a coward and daring him or her to come forward. She may or may not realize her husband “has spent the better part of five decades anonymously and gregariously leaking malicious and damaging rumors and information about friends, enemies, business associates and his own family members to gossip pages and reporters,” writes Tim O’Brien – who was one of the reporters Trump used to solicit. With that in mind, Melania’s admonition rings a bit hollow.

Bonus Trump reading:

Fed Conundrum Gets More Conundrum-y

The August jobs report showed a welcome year-over-year jump in wages, the biggest since 2009. But that also led to an unwelcome jump in interest-rate expectations in the bond market, notes Brian Chappatta. In other words, a Federal Reserve that might have been thinking about easing up on rate hikes might just have to think about speeding them up instead.

A more-aggressive Fed would be bad news for emerging markets, mired in their worst bear market in years. Rising U.S. interest rates make the dollar more attractive and take easy money out of the hands of investors. Hopes for an easier Fed had investors seeing light at the end of the EM tunnel, Robert Burgess notes. It's still possible that light is an oncoming train. And Dan Moss warns a theoretically easier Fed wouldn’t solve all of emerging markets’ problems anyway (which Satyajit Das laid out in detail last week).

Bonus emerging-market reading: Keep an eye on how Russia handles the EM blowup. – Marcus Ashworth 

Bonus Fed reading: Fed policy is becoming less predictable. – Tim Duy 

Chart Attack, Jobs Report Edition

Women are playing a key role in the “Goldilocks” economy of strong growth and low inflation, writes Mark Whitehouse. That’s because they’ve been rushing back into the workforce, helping boost the supply of labor and keep the price of it down.

Is Tesla Going Up in Smoke?

Government’s share of the job market is the lowest in generations, writes Justin Fox.

Is Tesla Going Up in Smoke?

Quick Hits

Amazon.com Inc. may be the Grim Reaper to a lot of industries, but it’s a godsend to automakers. – Brooke Sutherland 

How the U.S. has long used the dollar as a weapon. – Satyajit Das  

Don’t be fooled, millennials –  not everybody can live the FIRE (“Financial Independence, Retire Early”) lifestyle. – Lionel Laurent 

Seizing land from white farmers and giving it to black farmers might be immoral, but it could boost South Africa’s economy if done right. – Noah Smith

The Skripal poisoning case exposes the problems of the UK’s ubiquitous surveillance cameras. – Leonid Bershidsky 

Power companies love drones, and for good reason. – Nathaniel Bullard and Claire Curry

ICYMI

Gary Cohn is no longer in Trump’s Circle of Trust. Jeff Sessions is back in, as long as he catches the op-ed writer. Tropical storm Florence is the Anton Chigurh of hurricanes – there’s a 50/50 shot it will hit the East Coast. Nike sales got a Kaepernick Bump.

Kickers

“Mindful” people feel less pain.

Weird numbers called quaternions, discovered in the 1800s, gave rise to modern algebra.

Ancient farmers may have changed the climate enough to avert an ice age.

Turns out probiotics are basically useless and possibly harmful.

A giant plastic-scooping array is launching in the Pacific; but will it do more harm than good?

Turns out putting “rogue satellites” in space was not the best idea.

Note: Please send quaternions, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

***

New subscribers can sign up here

Like Bloomberg Opinion Today? Subscribe to Bloomberg All Access and get much, much more. You'll receive our unmatched global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.