Today: Tesla CEO Elon Musk takes umbrage with New York Times review of the Tesla Model S, but green economy gets boost from solar stocks. Also: Apple (AAPL) gains on talk of watch-type device, cheaper iPhone; Wall Street declines as Google (GOOG) takes hit after Eric Schmidt sale announcement.
Tesla falls after negative review, solar gains amid acquisition rumors
Silicon Valley's green economy was front and center Monday, as the CEO of the most celebrated electric-only carmaker in the world publicly and loudly debated one of the premier newspapers in the United States, and solar stocks took a leap on rumors of an acquisition.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the most noise Monday, taking to Twitter to dispute a New York Times review of his Palo Alto company's Model S. The reviewer attempted to drive from Washington, D.C. to Boston in a Model S, using Tesla's newly installed Superchargers along the way, but reported that the car did not make it as far on a charge as Tesla claims.
Musk quickly used Twitter to debunk the article, saying that he logs the data from all review drives since a notorious review from the television show "Top Gear" that led to a lawsuit, and that his logs showed the reviewer was not truthful.
"NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn't actually charge to max & took a long detour," Musk tweeted at 11:26 a.m. Pacific time. The celebrated entrepreneur tweeted seven more times about the review by 2 p.m. Monday; he tweeted eight times total in the month of January.
Tesla stock opened 3.2 percent lower than Friday's close, possibly due to the NYT review, but Tesla's expected earnings Monday afternoon also could have spooked investors nervous about the performance of the Model S. However, Tesla said Monday it would not report earnings as expected, with a spokeswoman telling Marketwatch that they would announce a date for the earnings call later this week.
Shares rebounded a bit after Musk took the paper to task, with Tesla stock closing at $38.42, a 2.1 percent daily decline.
Silicon Valley's most prominent solar company headed the other way Monday on Wall Street, as SunPower (SPWRA) gained 19 percent after rumors that its largest competitor, Arizona-based First Solar, could be an acquisition target for General Electric.
First Solar, the only solar manufacturer larger than San Jose-based SunPower, gained 6.5 percent on the day. Other solar companies, both foreign and domestic, also gained in Monday trading. Even San Mateo-based SolarCity, which installs instead of manufacturing solar systems, jumped more than 10 percent Monday, closing at $16.67, its highest closing price yet.
Apple gains as wristwatch, cheaper iPhone dominate conversation
Apple also had a strong day Monday, as the talk about the Cupertino tech giant seemed to change from its volatile stock to a more standard topic: Rumors about consumer devices the company might release.
Over the weekend, multiple news sources reported that Apple is developing a wristwatch-like device that would allow a wearer to access some features of his or her iPhone without actually touching the smartphone.
The market for such a device seems to be growing, as a Kickstarter project for Pebble smartwatches was extremely successful last year, though the company has experienced issues fulfilling orders. That would not seem to be an issue for Apple, which has reportedly been talking with manufacturing partner Foxconn about the device.
"The most credible rumors tend to follow Apple's pattern of building out their iOS platform and Apps Store content and then creating new products that capitalize on that system. In that context, a wearable device would make a lot of sense," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told the Mercury News on Sunday.
Topeka Capital analyst Brian White went a different way Monday, issuing a note that proclaims Apple will release a cheaper version of the iPhone this year, as reports suggested last year. The Apple bull wrote that he is "confident that a lower-priced iPhone will be launched by Apple in 2013, possibly as early as June."
The move could help Apple's growth in China, where cheaper smartphones are easily outpacing Apple sales. White's note reported that Apple will sell the devices for $250 to $350 without subsidies from carriers, well below current pricing.
Apple stock increased 1 percent on the day to close at $479.93, as a judge moved up the schedule for the company's court battle with activist investor David Einhorn.
Google falls as Schmidt sells stock, Yahoo and LinkedIn hit new highs
Despite the success of solar stocks and Apple, Wall Street did not move higher Monday, instead treading water as investors wondered whether the extremely strong positive movement in the first six weeks of 2013 can legitimately continue.
"This is still a market that looks terrific, but when you're up for six weeks in a row, everyone is going to want to take a pause going into the seventh week even if there is no bad news out there," Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management, explained to Reuters.
Google fell slightly, losing 0.4 percent, after announcing in a filing on Friday that chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt would sell half of his stock in the company, though the small loss didn't do much damage to a stock that has been trading at all-time highs. Netflix (NFLX) lost 1.7 percent after it was beaten by Starz in the competition for Sony movies; and Palo Alto virtualization firm VMware suffered a larger loss of 2.7 percent, but announced after the bell that it had agreed to acquire Sunnyvale storage-software company Virsto for an undisclosed amount. The announcement did not seem to have much of an immediate effect in after-hours trading.
Positive moves included Yahoo (YHOO) again establishing new 52-week highs with a 2 percent gain to $20.90, and Zynga continuing momentum from last week and gaining 7 percent to $3.67. LinkedIn established yet more record highs after last week's success, gaining 3.3 percent to close at $155.41, and struggling Sunnyvale chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices advanced 3.1 percent.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
Up: SunPower, SolarCity, Zynga, Jive, LinkedIn, AMD, Yahoo, Splunk, Nvidia, Apple, Cisco
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 1.87, or 0.06 percent, to 3,192
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 21.73, or 0.16 percent, to 13,971.24
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 0.92, or 0.06 percent, to 1,517.01
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.