Koreans dump Tesla shares, turn to US health care sector in Q3

By Son Ji-hyoung
  • Published : Oct 6, 2021 - 14:35
  • Updated : Oct 6, 2021 - 14:35

A Tesla Model X electric car is seen at the Brussels Motor Show, Belgium in January 2020. (Reuters-Yonhap)
South Korea-domiciled investors went on to sell Tesla stocks during the third quarter of this year, and instead turned to health care stocks in the United States, data showed Wednesday.

This indicates that Korean investors’ enthusiasm over the growth potential of the Palo Alto, California-based electric vehicle giant since early 2020 has started to wane. Instead, they were seen betting on normalization hopes amid a fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

From July to September, Korean investors sold a combined $2.6 billion in Tesla shares, while they bought $2.2 billion of the same US carmaker’s stocks, according to data from the Korea Securities Depository.

Sales of Tesla shares outsized the purchases in each of the three months, the data also showed.

Such a sell-off trend has continued since June this year, the first month since December 2019 when there were more Korean sellers than buyers of Tesla stock.

Moreover, the KSD data also showed that Tesla was no longer the most-bought foreign security among Koreans in the month of September. Instead, leveraged exchange-traded fund ProShares UltraPro QQQ -- designed to deliver triple the daily returns or losses of the US tech-heavy bourse Nasdaq’s top 100 constituents -- claimed the top spot.

September was the first month that Tesla lost its status as the most-bought foreign stock on a monthly basis since January 2020.

Tesla was followed by Apple in terms of the volume of sales by Korean investors during the third quarter. Koreans sold $1.3 billion of Apple shares, outpacing $1.1 billion in purchases.

Apple was one of a few exceptions to Korean investors’ relentless purchasing of US technology stocks.

Other Big Tech shares, such as Amazon, Google parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook, saw their purchasing of shares during the third quarter outstripping sales.

Koreans’ purchases of Amazon shares were $194 million larger than sales. The gap for Alphabet came to $330 million, while those of Microsoft and Facebook were $240 million and $149 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, Koreans began to ramp up their purchases of vaccine-related foreign stocks.

Koreans bought a combined $835 million in shares of COVID-19 vaccine developer Moderna during the third quarter. They sold $828 million of its shares.

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant behind the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, was another popular foreign stock with Koreans, with $180 million in purchases and $155 million in sales.

Both Moderna and Pfizer use mRNA-based technology to produce a vaccine to combat COVID-19.

Also during the third quarter, Novavax, whose protein subunit vaccine development is underway, saw an influx of $377 million in its shares from Korea, as Koreans sold $320 million of its shares.

On the other hand, Koreans were quick to buy stocks in Merck ahead of its announcement earlier in October that its oral pill to treat COVID-19 showed positive clinical trial results.

Koreans bought nearly $150 million of Merck stocks in the third quarter, with around half of the purchases having taken place in September.

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