Tesla's Model 3 struggles have traders paying record prices to protect against a stock drop

Based on how Tesla's stock has reacted to the past week's events, one might think it's downright invincible at this point.
Take Tuesday's price action for instance. Following an announcement that the company would temporarily suspend its Model 3 assembly line, Tesla's stock actually rose as much as 0.3% intraday before finishing the day 1.2% lower.
Then, on Wednesday, following reports that CEO Elon Musk wrote a letter to employees raising the company's Model 3 production target, the stock climbed more than 4% at one point.
Considering Tesla has drawn the ire of investors by repeatedly moving the goalposts for production estimates — which they've also missed on multiple occasions — the gain shows traders are still more than willing to take Musk's word for it, further reinforcing the company's air of invincibility.
But one statistic suggests Tesla investors are actually bracing for the worst. In fact, they're more worried than they've ever been.
As this chart shows, traders are paying close to the highest premium on record to protect against a 10% decline in Tesla's stock over the next month, relative to wagers on a 10% gain. The measure — known as skew — hit a peak in early April and has stayed elevated ever since.
 (Business Insider/Joe Ciolli/Andy Kiersz, data from Bloomberg)
Despite the resilience of Tesla's stock in recent days, it's not altogether surprising that traders are paying up for downside protection when you consider the many headwinds that have rocked the company in recent months.
Those hurdles include an an ongoing government investigation into a fatal Model X crash in California and a downgrade from Moody'sMore recently, a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting out Monday said Tesla deliberately concealed serious injuries from public reports to boost its safety statistics.
And while those issues combined to drag Tesla shares down 16% over a series of weeks, 71% of Wall Street analysts covering the company still have either a "buy" or "neutral" rating on the stock. This once again reaffirms the idea that despite its myriad woes, Tesla can do no wrong in the eyes of many.
One last caveat that must be mentioned is the propensity for investors to short large technology companies as a proxy for a broader market hedge. Tesla in particular is a lightning rod for this strategy, due to the outsized returns generated by shorting it, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners.
In fact, from March 19 through March 31, shorting Tesla yielded a whopping 16.7%, almost four times more than a strategy that involves shorting exchange-traded funds tracking the benchmark S&P 500.
At this point, it's anyone's guess what the next month will hold for Tesla. But regardless of what happens, if things end up going awry for the heavily scrutinized company, traders seem ready for it.

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