Tesla shares rise on hopes stock will join the S&P 500 benchmark, unleashing new investor money

Tesla shares rose after Macquarie estimated the electric automaker may qualify to join the benchmark S&P 500 index as early as the second quarter of 2019.

"TSLA checks off all the boxes for inclusion except aggregate GAAP profitability over trailing 12 months; we forecast this box to be checked in 2Q19," Macquarie analyst Maynard Um said in a note Thursday.

The company's third quarter saw it report a surprise profit, as CEO Elon Musk made good on his promise to start turning regular profits in the last half of the year.

"While TSLA still has to prove it can sustain profitability, we believe the company will achieve this last eligibility requirement," Um said.

To be eligible for inclusion, Standard & Poor's requires companies to be profitable for four consecutive quarters on a GAAP basis.

More than $3 trillion in funds are tracking the S&P 500 directly via index funds, according to Standard & Poor's website.

Tesla shares closed Thursday trading up 0.9 percent following the note.