Monster Apple earnings in the December quarter would do wonders for Apple stock - but don't count on that happening.
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) earnings for Q1 2013 are due out Wednesday after market close, and Wall Street estimates range from a 14% decline to a 12% gain. Apple's own guidance is for earnings of just $11.75 per share, while the consensus on Wall Street is for earnings of $13.41 per share.
Even if Apple earnings match Wall Street expectations, $13.41 per share would actually be a decline of more than 3% year-over-year, a far cry from the stunning 118% gain the company reported last year. The psychological impact of declining year-over-year profits for the first time in nine years could ding the stock.
An actual earnings miss - even by just a few pennies - would be more dangerous for Apple stock, meaning the likelihood that Apple stock will fall after earnings is higher than usual.
Here's how Apple got in this vulnerable position.
The China Smartphone Brand That's Beating Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)
Most investors who pour money into smartphone makers look to dominant players like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) - but they're missing a bigger part of the market.
The global smartphone industry is changing dramatically, as China surpassed the United States in 2012 to become the world's largest smartphone market by volume. Smartphone shipments to China in the third-quarter of 2012 hit a record 60 million.
Apple has noticed this shift. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told Chinese-run Xinhua News Agency that he believes China will become the company's biggest market in the future.
But for now, it's the domestic brands that have won.
"Chinese brands have taken more than half the Chinese smartphone market this year, and they will take much more," Sandy Shen, the head of consumer research at technology research company Gartner in Shanghai, told the Financial Times.
With Apple Stock at the iPhone's Mercy, Time to Play Defense
We hear one tidbit of bad news about Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) cutting orders for iPhone 5 components and - boom! - Apple stock drops more than 6%.
The reason for the stark cause-and-effect on Apple stock is that the iPhone contributes about 53% of Apple's vast revenue. [In fact, were the iPhone a standalone company, it would rank 29th in the Fortune 500.]
This latest Apple bombshell broke late Sunday.
According to reports from Nikkei and The Wall Street Journal, Apple supposedly cut orders for several key iPhone 5 parts for the first quarter. The Cupertino, CA company's orders for iPhone 5 screens, in particular, were reportedly slashed in half.
That was immediately interpreted as a response to lower-than-anticipated iPhone 5 sales, which in turn raised alarms that Apple could be headed for more earnings disappointments, hence the selloff.
Apple followers have questioned the validity of the story. Some bloggers pointed out that the number of iPhone 5 screens that Nikkei said Apple ordered had to be false in that it was far beyond any realistic estimate of iPhone sales for the current quarter.
But whether there's anything to the report or not, its impact on Apple stock has been real.
In the immediate wake of the story, several analysts cut their ratings and price targets. In less than two trading days, AAPL has lost $30 billion of market capitalization - the equivalent of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s (NYSE: LMT) entire market cap.
Apple is now paying the price for having one of the most profitable consumer products in history.
iPhone Becomes Vulnerability for Apple Stock
On the way up, the iPhone made Apple the most valuable company on the planet.
But now that iPhone sales growth seems to be leveling off, the overdependence that such success created has become vulnerability, at least as far as Apple stock is concerned.
Why the Apple iPhone 5’s Lack of Killer Features is Pure Genius
Tech critics predictably pounced on the new Apple iPhone 5 yesterday (Wednesday) even before its debut event had ended.
As often happens with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) product introductions, many had hoped for more whiz-bang new features.
"Apple's Phone has been a trendsetter for half a decade. Now the question is whether it can avoid becoming a bore," lamented The Wall Street Journal.
The Apple iPhone 5 did get a bigger 4-inch screen, 4G LTE connectivity, and a faster A6 processor. But months of rumors and speculation had raised expectations for more dramatic enhancements.
Apple easily could have included some of those much-desired features, such as a mobile wallet chip (also known as NFC, or near-field communications), wireless battery charging, or biometric security (using your voice or fingerprint).
Amid the din of criticism, few are asking why Apple would leave such goodies out of the iPhone 5.
It could be as simple as the new stuff just didn't all fit in the case - the iPhone 5 is the thinnest and lightest version yet, after all.
Maybe the technology just doesn't work right yet.
But maybe, just maybe, Apple decided to hold a few plum features out of the iPhone 5 because it's mulling a major change to its iPhone business.
What if Apple has decided to modify its upgrade cycle to two iPhones a year instead of just one?
In that case, holding out a few juicy features for a late April-early May upgrade is strategic genius.
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Apple iPhone 5 Demand Alone Will Push Stock Price Past $800
If the Apple iPhone 5 turns out to be the blockbuster product that nearly everyone expects, it should easily carry the company's stock to $800 and beyond.
The long-anticipated next-generation iPhone is expected to debut at an Apple Media Event Sept. 12 and go on sale Sept. 21.
Rumored improvements such as a bigger 4-inch screen and 4G LTE network compatibility have heightened consumer anticipation, even slowing sales of the current iPhone 4S.
A recent survey of more than 4,000 American consumers by ChangeWave Research indicated that many can't wait to give their money to Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL).
"Advance demand for the iPhone 5 is strikingly higher than we've seen for any previous iPhone model," Paul Carton, ChangeWave's vice president of research, told Computerworld.
In addition, extraordinarily positive guidance from several iPhone component suppliers hints that Apple has ramped up production like never before. Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS) forecast a 70% sales increase for the current quarter. Omnivision (Nasdaq: OVTI) said it expected revenue to jump 38%-50%.
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And with Apple's huge patent case victory over Samsung two weeks ago casting a cloud over the iPhone's Android-based competitors, conditions are ideal for a huge iPhone 5 launch.
In a note last month, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, predicted the Apple iPhone 5 would be "the largest consumer electronics product upgrade in history." He forecast the iPhone 5 will sell 6-10 million units within its first 10 days.
Another analyst, Horace Dediu of Asymco, has projected iPhone 5 sales of about 170 million units over the next year, which would beat first-year sales of the iPhone 4S by about 70%.
Given that the iPhone contributes more than half of Apple's profits, any large increase in iPhone sales will deliver a mammoth boost to the bottom line. And those rapidly rising profits will keep pushing AAPL higher.
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5 Reasons Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Stock Hit a New All-Time High
Just when it looked like the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) success story had taken a detour, Apple stock suddenly hits a new all-time high.
AAPL shot past its previous intraday high record of $644 by reaching $648.19 during Friday's session. The close of $648.11 easily broke the $636.23 record closing price set on April 9.
Today (Monday) Apple stock is up more than 1% in early trading, reaching an intraday high of $656.35.
That's hardly what many investors expected after Apple reported on July 24 that it missed on its June quarter earnings and offered weak guidance for the current quarter.
After that Apple stock dipped into the $570 range several times before quietly starting its climb back to its previous high.
Since those lows of late July, AAPL has soared 12% -- more than twice the rise of the Standard & Poor's 500 index and almost triple the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
How can this be? Why are investors so high on a company that hasn't really done anything spectacular lately?
Why Google Android Can't Compete With Apple's iPhone
There's an inherent flaw in Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system.
The flaw isn't a technical glitch.
In fact, most agree that Google's Android is a first-rate mobile operating system that has gotten better with each update. Some even prefer it to Apple's iOS.
It's not adoption either.
According to recent data from Nielsen, Android's U.S. market share among smartphones has reached 48%, compared to 32.1% for Apple's iPhone. And Google says it has activated more than 300 million Android devices.
The problem is partly the result of Google Android's overall success.
The biggest flaw is fragmentation and it will be what prevents Google from defeating Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone in the mobile computing wars.
There are simply too many versions of Android running on too many (over 1,400) different pieces of hardware. And the issue gets worse with each new version of Android, as older devices are rarely updated.
That's a huge problem for Android developers, who need to write apps that will work on a bewildering array of possible configurations. And it's starting to have an impact.
According to Appcelerator's most recent quarterly survey of developers, interest in writing apps for Android phones fell 4.7 percentage points to 78.6%, and interest in writing apps for Android tablets fell 2.2 percentage points to 65.9%.
By comparison, 89% of developers were interested in writing apps for Apple's iOS, a number that has remained steady.
"Massive platform fragmentation is a big reason that we're seeing this decline in interest," Mike King, Appcelerator's principal mobile strategist, told Network World. "If you look at all the other numbers such as Android smartphone market share it's on the upswing, but for app developers it's a real challenge."
It's a headache iOS developers don't share. Most Apple customers stay current with the latest version of iOS.
And because Apple makes all the hardware, limited to just a handful of models, it's much easier to write an app that runs on nearly all of the millions of iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads in use.
Google Android Users Not Big SpendersMaking matters worse for developers is that Android users tend to spend less money on apps than owners of Apple devices.
According to a report last year by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, the Google Android Market (recently renamed Google Play) generated just 7% of the revenue of Apple's iTunes App Store.
Munster estimated that in terms of dollars spent on mobile computing apps, Apple has an 85%-90% share. He expects Apple's dominance of app revenue to remain over 70% for the next three to four years.
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