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Tesla deliveries to rise 30% to 40% in 2020

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SpaceX founder Elon Musk looks on at a post-launch news conference after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, March 2, 2019.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered new delivery predictions for 2020 at the company’s shareholder’s meeting on Tuesday, where the company also detailed a new battery design that it claims will make its cars cheaper to produce.

Musk said he expects vehicle deliveries to increase by 30 to 40 percent over last year, when the company reported deliveries of 367,500 vehicles. The new guidance from Musk implies deliveries of between 477,750 and 514,500 cars, a range that encompasses the company’s previously stated goal to deliver half a million cars in 2020.

“In 2019, we had 50% growth. And I think we’ll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30 to 40 percent growth, despite a lot of very difficult circumstances.”

Musk also said the battery and manufacturing advances Tesla is working on will soon lead to lower prices, which will be vital for getting more electric vehicles on the road. “About 3 years from now, we’re confident we can make a very compelling $25,000 electric vehicle that’s also fully autonomous,” he claimed. Musk is notorious, however, for being overly optimistic with his predictions.

In response to one shareholder’s follow-up question about lowering pricing, Musk acknowledged, “It’s not like Tesla’s profitability is crazy high. Our average profitability for the last four quarters was maybe 1%. It’s not like we’re minting money. Our valuation makes it seem like we are, but we’re not.”

He continued, “We do want to make the price as competitive as we can without losing money. If you keep losing money, you’ll die.”

The company’s shares dropped as much as 7% during the presentation, which took place after normal trading hours.

Battery improvements promised

During the “battery day” portion of the presentation, Tesla confirmed that it has designed and is producing its own battery cells at a facility in Fremont, as part of its quest to make its cars affordable to a mainstream buyer.

In general, the batteries of a Tesla — which contain thousands of cells — are the most expensive part of the car.

Tesla’s senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering, Drew Baglino, described how the company’s new cells, dubbed “4680,” are larger and simpler to make than the “2470” cylindrical battery cells it purchases from Panasonic and other suppliers today. A Tesla battery pack would require fewer cells with the new shape and design.

Baglino said the larger cells, along with other manufacturing and design changes underway at Tesla, would eventually improve the range of its cars by more than 50%.

Near-term, Tesla says it aims to produce 10 gigawatt hours worth of the new battery cells at its pilot plant within a year. Musk noted that whatever cells it produces in Fremont would be supplemental to 100 gigawatt hours worth of cells it buys from suppliers, and said “To be clear, it will take about a year to reach the 10 gigawatt hour capacity.” 

With its new cells, Tesla is also seeking to reduce or completely avoid the use of some expensive materials used in lithium-ion battery production today, including cobalt. 

Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Costa Samaras, said: “If Tesla can make a cheap, reliable battery with little or no cobalt, it will really improve the ability of EVs to scale up. Most cobalt is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the mining has long generated human rights and child labor concerns.”

On Monday, Musk warned that the advances announced at battery day won’t find their way into mass production until 2021, sending the company’s stock down about 6% ahead of the event on Tuesday.

Due partly to Covid-19 health orders that limit the size of in-person gatherings, Tesla postponed its annual meeting from July this year to Sept. 22, 2020. The company previously held its shareholder meetings at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California but moved the event to the parking lot of its U.S. vehicle assembly plant in Fremont. Shareholders parked and sat in their cars at the meeting, which Musk characterized as a “drive-in.” They honked in lieu of applause.

Al Prescott, Tesla’s VP of legal, at the company’s socially distanced 2020 shareholders meeting, as attendees listen in their cars.

Those who wanted to attend had to obtain a winning lottery-style ticket (or other special access) to the meeting. Otherwise, shareholders could log into a website to ask questions to be answered during the live-streamed event.

Cannacord Genuity analyst Jed Dorsheimer wrote in a note to investors before the meeting:

“The big question will be on follow through. It’s one thing to announce all these breakthroughs, which might be great for momentum algorithms, but like most things TSLA, the devil will be in the details, which sadly will take some time to play out.”

Cannacord maintains a “Hold” rating and a price target of $442 on shares of Tesla currently.

Shares of the electric car maker are up more than 400% year-to-date.

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Final presidential debate 2020: Trump vs. Biden highlights

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President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were hardly cordial in their final debate — but both candidates seem to have taken to heart the largely negative reaction to their vicious first showing.

There was less fury and more urgency in the 90-minute debate in Nashville on Thursday night, just 12 days out from Election Day.

The moderator, NBC News’ Kristen Welker, kept a tight lid on the Republican president and the Democratic nominee as she peppered them with questions about the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and foreign interference in the election, as well as the candidates’ finances.

Compared with the first debate — which was defined by furious crosstalk and personal insults — the final face-off was an almost staid affair. But despite the clearer delivery, neither candidate pulled punches, and the volume started to rise later in the evening.

“He doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues,” Biden said at one point after a lengthy exchange with Trump, in which each candidate shot accusations at the other about money they had allegedly received.

“It’s not about his family and my family. It’s about your family,” Biden said, speaking into the camera.

“That’s a typical political statement,” Trump responded. “‘Let’s get off the subject of China, let’s talk around sitting around the table.’ Come on, Joe, you can do better.”

Here are the highlights:

Coronavirus contrasts

Biden warned that the U.S. is headed for a “dark winter” as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus, but Trump maintained that he had taken quick action to respond to the pandemic.

Asked how he could boost Americans’ confidence to take a vaccine if and when it arrives, Biden said he would “make sure it’s totally transparent.”

“We’re about to go into a dark winter,” Biden said. “And [Trump] has no clear plan and there’s no prospect that there’s going to be a vaccine available for a majority of the people until the middle of next year.”

Trump pushed back: “I don’t think we’re going to have a dark winter at all. We’re opening up our country, we’ve learned and studied and understand the disease, which we didn’t at the beginning.”

The president also took his first shot of the night at Biden, noting that the former vice president criticized him in January when he put restrictions on travel from China.

“Now he’s saying, ‘Oh, I should have moved quicker.’ But he didn’t move quicker, he was months behind me,” Trump said.

Sparring over personal finances

Trump claimed Biden makes money from Russia, China and Ukraine, an allegation the former vice president strongly denied before mocking Trump for failing to publicly release his income tax returns and for having a bank account in China.

“Joe got $3.5 million from Russia that came through [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin because he was friendly with the mayor of Moscow,” Trump said. “I never got any money from Russia.”

“Russia was paying you a lot of money, and they probably still are,” Trump claimed. “I think you owe an explanation to the American people.”

Biden replied, “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source in my life.”

“We learned this president does business in China, has a secret bank account in China and is talking about me taking money? I have not taken a penny from a single country whatsoever,” Biden said.

“No. 2 … I released all my tax returns — 22 years, go look at them. You have not released a single solitary year of your tax return,” Biden said. “What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling?”

Trump then said, as he has for years, that he can’t release his tax returns because they are under audit by the IRS.

‘Bidencare’

If the Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, Biden said his next move would be to “pass Obamacare with a public option: Bidencare.”

Biden said that under his plan, the public option would mean that “if you qualify for Medicaid and you do not have the wherewithal in your state to get Medicaid, you are automatically enrolled.”

Additionally, the Democrat said his plan would reduce premiums and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with insurance companies.

Biden also pushed back on Trump, who beforehand called Biden’s health-care proposal “socialized medicine.”

Trump said, “I’d like to terminate Obamacare, come up with a brand new beautiful health care … Come up with better health care, always protecting people with preexisting conditions.”

Biden responded by attacking Trump for not having a clear health-care plan, despite promising that he would unveil it.

“There’s no way he can protect preexisting conditions. None. Zero,” Biden said. “You can’t do it in the ether.”

Nationwide minimum wage

Trump and Biden differed sharply on the question of a national minimum wage.

The current national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and Trump argued that the minimum wage should be left to the states. Biden backed a nationwide $15 minimum wage.

“Small businesses, by raising the minimum wage — that is not helping,” said Trump. “It should be a state option. Alabama is different from New York. New York is different from Vermont. Every state is different. We have to help our small businesses.”

The question of whether raising the minimum wage contributes to unemployment on a macro level is still hotly debated by economists.

Welker pressed Trump on his previous suggestion that he’d consider raising the minimum wage. “I would consider it to an extent,” Trump said. “But not to a level that is going to put all these businesses out of business. It should be a state option. Different places are all different. Some places, $15 is not so bad. In other places, $15 [is good].”

Biden jumped in. “These people are working two jobs, because one job is below poverty,” Biden said. “People are making $6, $7 an hour. These first responders, we clap as they come down the street … They deserve a minimum wage of $15. Anything below that puts you below the poverty level. And there is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, businesses go out of business.”

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Asia-Pacific stocks mixed as investors monitor coronavirus developments

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Stock futures rise slightly as traders monitor stimulus talks, debate ahead

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An artist name Theodore Tsinias who wrapped himself next to the Charging Bull to show his attention about world’s behavior amid Covid-19 pandemic in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States on May 25, 2020.

Tayfun Coskin | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday night as Wall Street weighed the potential for additional fiscal stimulus, news on the earnings and coronavirus treatment fronts while awaiting the final U.S. presidential debate.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up by 44 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.1% and Nasdaq 100 futures traded higher by 0.2%.

Intel shares fell more than 9% in after-hours trading following the release of mixed quarterly numbers for the chip maker. The company’s earnings were in line with analyst expectations, but revenue from its data center business fell short of analyst estimates.

Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences gained 4% after the Food and Drug Administration approved the company’s drug, remdesivir, for use as a treatment against the coronavirus.

The Dow and S&P 500 each gained 0.5% during regular trading while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.2% after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were making progress in their fiscal stimulus negotiations.

“If we were not making progress, I wouldn’t spend five seconds in these conversations. … This is not anything other than I think a serious attempt. I do believe that both sides want to reach an agreement,” Pelosi said.

However, Pelosi also tempered expectations over Democrats and Republicans reaching a deal before the election, saying it could take “a while” for a bill to be written and signed.

Traders have been keeping an eye on Washington in recent weeks as they gauge the prospects for new coronavirus aid to be pushed through. Several market experts and economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, think it is imperative that lawmakers reach a deal on another stimulus package.

“Governmental powers are still trying to put together another economic relief package,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group. “However, despite the July expiration of unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act, here, two-and-a-half months later, U.S. economic momentum is remarkably healthy.”

Paulsen’s comment came after the release of much better-than-expected U.S. unemployment data on Thursday.

Thursday’s moves came ahead of the second debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The debate is set to start at 9 p.m. ET and will be the last one before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Biden holds a lead in most national polls heading into the debate as the possibility for a so-called Blue Wave grows. Some market experts a Democratic sweep could lead to a pop in equity prices in the short term. However, legendary hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones warned Thursday that this scenario could pressure stocks in the long term.

“I think under a blue wave, and the Biden tax plan, financial assets over the long run suffer a great deal,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

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