Today: More than 100,000 people demand the White House answer Tesla's call for support of its sales structure, and the Palo Alto electric car maker's shares hit new highs. Also: Apple (AAPL) continues to rebound amid "iWatch" reports.

The lead: Tesla hits record highs after White House petition achieves goal

Tesla Motors (TSLA) shares hit record highs for the second consecutive session Tuesday, as a petition seeking federal protection for the Palo Alto electric-car maker's sales strategy reached its target of 100,000 signatures days before the deadline.

Tesla stock rose to an all-time intraday high of $121.89 Tuesday before closing with a 0.6 percent advance from Monday's record closing price, at $117.82. At that closing price, Tesla shares have increased almost 250 percent in 2013, as the company's Model S has helped produce its first quarterly profit and CEO Elon Musk has touted a series of advances, such as an expanding network of superchargers.

Some states have considered legislation that would block Tesla's ability to expand on those successes, however, with auto dealers lobbying for bills that would bar the company from opening storefronts that offer direct sales to customers. State legislatures in North Carolina and New York have considered bills that would bar direct sales in some fashion, though neither passed the laws, while Tesla's attempt to change Texas law in its favor failed.


Advertisement

Musk has taken to his pulpit on the issue several times, pointing out that consumers favor direct sales in polls.

"Clearly, if democracy was working properly and the legislators were implementing the will of the people, something else would be happening, and there would not be legislation trying to artificially restrict direct sales," he told shareholders at the company's annual meeting in June.

In an attempt to gain attention from federal lawmakers on the issue, Tesla's legion of loyal fans petitioned the White House to take action on the issue. Online petitions have a set amount of time to reach 100,000 signatures, at which point the Obama administration has promised to at least issue a written response to the request.

Tesla's petition reached 100,000 Tuesday, well before Friday's deadline; the White House did not have a comment when contacted by CNN Money Tuesday afternoon. However, chances are low that Congress or the White House will step in to fight states on the issue, especially considering the political gridlock in Washington.

"The idea of Congress telling the states and their car dealers that this political football of a company should be free to conduct business is about as likely as them agreeing to a 'grand bargain' on the budget," Forbes contributor Mark Rogowsky wrote Tuesday.

Musk does have allies, though: Virgin group founder Richard Branson stood up Tuesday morning and put his weight behind Tesla on the issue, asking people to sign the petition, which may have helped reach the goal.

"If we are to conduct our businesses and industries in ways that profitably help people and the planet, some things will have to change," Branson -- whose Virgin Galactic spacefaring enterprise could compete with Musk's SpaceX -- wrote on his blog.

The entrenched enemy for Tesla, auto dealers whose franchise models have been the standard for car sales for decades, are unlikely to give up the fight. June sales figures released Tuesday showed automobiles are selling at pre-recession levels in the United States, with sales hitting their highest level since 2007.

SV150 market report: Apple 'iWatch' gains steam, bringing shares with it

Wall Street started strong Tuesday before dipping back to slight losses in the afternoon session, but Silicon Valley tech stocks moved higher thanks to a second straight strong day for Apple.

The Cupertino company continued Monday's rebound with a 2.3 percent gain to $418.49, with Monday's news of Apple's "iWatch" trademark claim in Japan multiplying with reports of such moves in several other countries. Apple also announced a new solar project to fuel its Reno data center, in conjunction with San Jose solar manufacturer SunPower (SPWRA), and Bloomberg News reported that it was close to a deal to add Time Warner cable to its Apple TV service. SunPower gained 2.9 percent to $22.02.

SanDisk and Yahoo (YHOO) headed in different directions after acquisitions. Milpitas-based SanDisk spent more than $300 million to buy Smart Storage Solutions, and its stock gained 0.3 percent to $61.59. Yahoo announced its second acquisition in as many days, following Monday's purchase of Bignoggins with another mobile acquisition, Qwicki, which AllThingsD reported was for about $50 million; Yahoo shares decreased 1 percent to $24.99.

Zynga shares continued to move high after the San Francisco social-gaming company staged a coup in bring the executive in charge of Xbox in as its new CEO, gaining another 6.5 percent to $3.27 Tuesday, its highest closing price since a dive after announcing layoffs last month.

Up: Zynga, Pandora, SunPower, Apple, Electronic Arts (ERTS), Yelp, NetApp, Gilead, Salesforce, eBay (EBAY), Tesla, Hewlett-Packard

Down: SolarCity, Advanced Micro Devices, Juniper, VMware, Facebook, Netflix (NFLX), Intuit (INTU), Yahoo, Intel (INTC), Google (GOOG), Adobe (ADBE), LinkedIn

The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 4.3, or 0.35 percent, to 1,240.46

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 1.09, or 0.03 percent, to 3,433.4

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 42.55, or 0.28 percent, to 14,932.41

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 0.88, or 0.05 percent, to 1,614.08

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.