Apple stock was up nearly 2% by noon today (Tuesday) - but this could be the end of gains for a while depending on what happens this afternoon.
Undeniably the most anticipated earnings report of the season is the Apple earnings report, due out after the close Tuesday. Expectations are for a downright dismal quarter.
Among the issues Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is expected to address include:
- iPhones: Apple generated some $22.7 billion from the sale of 35 million iPhones in the same quarter a year ago. Investors will want to hear how much competition from other smartphone markers, like Samsung, has chipped away at those numbers.
- iPads: Apple sold 11.8 million iPads that generated $6.6 billion in sales over the same period a year earlier. With the bevy of new and cheaper tablets now on the market, it is unlikely Apple has been able to maintain those robust sales.
- Gross Margins: Gross margins peaked at an astounding 47.4% during this quarter last year. Apple's warning last October that margins could drop as low as 38% was the catalyst behind the stock's steep plunge. In January, Apple said profits should come in around 37.5% to 38.5%. These numbers are crucial.
- Revenue and Profit: Last year, Apple earned $12.30 a share on revenue of $39.2 billion. Estimates are for $10.12 a share on revenue of $42.6 billion. Even the slightest miss could wallop shares.
- Guidance: Most importantly will be what the company says about future quarters. Analysts expect Apple to guide lower, at least for the next couple of quarters.
Of particular interest will be what Apple plans to do with its hefty $157 billion cash stash. A special or increased dividend and a bigger share buyback could provide a temporary boost to the stock. But any gains are likely to be short lived.
"People have to be patient. The next quarter will be disastrous and the quarter after that stock will only go in one direction and that is down," Trip Chowdhry, co-founder of Global Equities Research told CNBC.
Is Apple Stock a "Buy"?
While some analysts are screaming "Buy," there's some discouraging news to consider. For example, Apple supplier Cirrus Logic Inc. (Nasdaq: CRUS) reported an inventory glut of audio chips that signals Apple iPhone sales could fall drastically short of expectations.
Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald explains what's going on with Apple stock, whether or not investors should scoop up shares, and what to expect next from this iconic company.
Apple: Cash or Trash?
With Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) off nearly 50% from its $705.07 a share high set last September, many investors want to know if it's a buy.
Not in my book. Here's why:
1. The company has held on to its premium pricing strategy for too long. Going out on price as it has recently with iPhones, for example, is the death knell of competitive differentiation. Businesses that engage in price wars have a very difficult time climbing back up the proverbial ladder.
2. The present management team is having trouble fulfilling the late Steve Jobs' vision, and execution appears to be stumbling. The Maps thing, for instance, was an unmitigated disaster and shattered Apple's image of invincibility. The public noticed.
An Apple Stock Dividend Hike Could Help Set Cash Hoards Free
If Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) actually does what many now expect - raise the Apple stock dividend as much as 56% - it could help inspire a trend of givebacks by other cash-rich companies.
Looking at the company's cash hoard of $137 billion - which could reach $170 billion by year's end - a survey of analysts conducted by Bloomberg News this week concluded that an Apple stock dividend hike of $4.14 a share is a likely possibility.
That would raise the stock's yield from about 2.40% now to a much more attractive 3.6% -
higher than 84% of the other dividend-paying companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.
An increase in the Apple stock dividend would almost certainly boost the stock price, which is down about 35% from its Sept. 19 high of $702.10.
"The accumulation of cash has become excessive," Brian White, an analyst at New York-based Topeka Capital Markets Inc., told Bloomberg. "It doesn't matter which bearish scenario you forecast, they're never going to need this much cash."
Dumping Apple Stock for Google: How Investors Could Get Burned
The trend has some wondering if investors are consciously moving their money from one tech giant to the other.
"There's a lot of money that likes the tech sector, and I think Google has kind of taken over from Apple," Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management, told Reuters.
Looking at the charts, it's clear that Google stock is now enjoying the kind of momentum that Apple had for years, while sentiment toward AAPL almost couldn't get any more bearish.
Since Apple stock hit its all-time high of $705.07 in September, it has plunged 40% and lost more than $260 billion in market capitalization. AAPL is down more than 20% year to date.
Google hit several new highs recently, and poked briefly above $840 in early trading Wednesday. Google stock is up 48% from its mid-June low last year, and up 17.5% so far this year.
And at least two analysts recently put a $1,000 price target on GOOG, reminiscent of last year when analysts were rushing to put a $1,000 price target on Apple.
"The bulls are in Google's camp, and the bears are in Apple's camp at the moment," Neil Mawston, the executive director of Strategy Analytics, told CNBC.com, which speculated that Google could be replacing Apple as the dominant tech giant, as Apple supplanted Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) in the past decade.
But any Apple investors who haven't already dumped shares in favor of jumping on the Google stock bandwagon might want to think twice before doing so now.
What Should Apple Do with its $137 Billion Stockpile of Cash?
Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) been in the news a lot of late as its stock plunged. Meanwhile, the company sits on a cash pile of $137 billion.
When Apple stock was soaring, investors were happy. But since its stock value plunged some 35% since September, many investors have suggested Apple should share some of itsaccumulated wealth. Fund manager and investor David Einhorn went so far as to sue the company to try to force it to share more of its cash with shareholders.
Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald was asked on FOX Business what Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) should do with its stockpile of money: Should the company pay dividends to shareholders, pursue major acquisitions or just keep its large cash position for future investments or other costs?
Check out what Fitz-Gerald and other panelists said on the FOX Business report in this accompanying video.
Apple iWatch, Google Glass First Shots in New Clash of Tech Giants
Coming less than a year after Google unveiled its Google Glass Web-connected eyeglasses, reports that an Apple "iWatch" is in the works emphatically confirm that the battle is now joined for dominance over the next wave of tech - wearable computing.
According to the reports, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has 100 people working on an iWatch users would wear on their wrists, but that would have many of the same capabilities as an iPhone.
But wearable computers could enable new uses, particularly in the area of healthcare, while perhaps providing the spark to encourage some promising technologies that have yet to catch on, like contactless payments.
Four of the biggest names in tech - Apple, Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), Sony Corp. (NYSE ADR: SNE) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) - either are selling, have announced, or are known to be working on wearable computing ideas.
Why David Einhorn Needed to Sue Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)
Outspoken fund manager David Einhorn feels so strongly about the need for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) to share more of its cash with its stockholders that he has sued the company.
Shareholders like Einhorn - whose Greenlight Capital fund owns between 1.3 million and 1.5 million shares of AAPL - think the Cupertino, CA-based company should use its monstrous cash pile of more than $137 billion to boost its return.
Einhorn's lawsuit came after his request last year that the tech giant create shares of preferred Apple stock that would exist solely to pay a dividend about twice what the common stock currently pays.
But Apple has included a proposal on its Feb. 27 shareholder ballot that would amend the company's corporate charter to eliminate its ability to create preferred stock. It also has combined that issue with two other unrelated issues in the same proposal.
Einhorn is suing Apple because he says Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules prohibit such bundling, and because he wants to ensure the company will be able to create the type of preferred shares he has proposed.
To further hammer home his point, Einhorn wrote a letter to all Apple shareholders, which was released today, in which he explained his position and urged them to vote against Proposal 2 in the shareholder ballot.
"Proposal 2 is value destructive, impedes the Board's flexibility, and does not merit shareholder support," Einhorn wrote.
The Apple Sell-Off is Just Beginning
I've made the case several times that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) was over-cooked, most recently last fall when the company was flirting with $700 a share.
Each time I did I was taken to the woodshed by the legions of Apple fans who couldn't reconcile their passion with their profits.
iHere we go again...
Following earnings that "beat" and revenue that fell short, the company dropped $48 billion, or roughly 10%, in afterhours trading on Wednesday. And still more on Thursday in early trading.
I think this is just the beginning of a protracted sell- off and my argument really isn't that fancy. In fact, it comes down to two very simple points:
Why This Week's Apple Earnings Matter So Much More than Usual
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.