Apple ‘crash’ may be overstated

A look around the stock markets

 

Investors’ initial response to Apple’s recent earnings was to wipe more than $60 billion in value off the company, a “crash” that garnered headlines aplenty.

“Here’s your golden opportunity to buy Apple stock,” screamed one headline. “How low can Apple stock go?” countered another.

Who’s right? Neither. Apple shares plunged 8 per cent in the minutes after results were announced, but ended the day 5 per cent lower – unpleasant, but hardly unprecedented, given the stock has suffered 34 similar one-day declines since 2007.

(It has risen by more than 1,000 per cent during that period).

Some might say this supports the “golden opportunity” thesis, that all Apple dips should be bought. However, that too misses the point. Apple, valued at $720 billion and easily the most valuable company in the world, is up 15 per cent in 2015.

In fact, shares had risen 11 per cent in the fortnight leading up to earnings, and were just shy of all-time highs.

Last Wednesday’s supposed crash merely brought shares back to the same level they were trading at a week earlier, and to the middle of the trading range within which the stock has oscillated over the last five months.

Stocks go up, they go down. Some moves, like Google’s recent explosive breakout to all-time highs, are significant. Last week’s decline in Apple shares wasn’t the earthquake it was made out to be. No joy for goldbugs Spare a thought for goldbugs. Gold last week fell below $1,100 after declining 10 days in succession – its longest losing streak since 1996.

It’s a far cry from the gold mania of 2011. One Gallup poll that year found 34 per cent of Americans believed gold would be the best long-term investment; 17 per cent opted for stocks. Equities have since doubled; gold has fallen 40 per cent.

Will it bounce back? Perhaps, given how technically oversold it is, but a long-term bottom looks elusive; as BNP Paribas cautioned last week, gold appears to be in a secular downtrend.

These can be lengthy affairs – gold investors lost money in both the 1980s and 1990s.

Gold has failed to keep up with inflation over the last 35 years.

Unlike stocks, it produces no income, making it all but impossible to value.

Ultimately, to steal Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig’s phrase, gold is little more than a “pet rock”.

US rally continues to thin US stock market breadth continues to deteriorate.

Early last week, the S&P 500 almost hit fresh all-time highs. Despite that, more stocks have been hitting 52-week lows than 52-week highs.

In recent months, it has been common for there to be more daily gainers than losers; not since the steep correction of mid-2012 has the spread between losers and gainers been as wide.

Only around half of stocks are trading above their 200-day moving average. According to S&P analyst Howard Silverblatt, just five stocks – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Walt Disney – have accounted for most of the S&P 500’s year-to-date gain.

The pattern has also been evident in the Nasdaq, with a handful of large-cap names lifting it to all-time highs in the face of broader weakness.

Indices are vulnerable when a reduced number of stocks are keeping them afloat.

Until breadth improves, traders are likely to continue taking their profits when indices near the top of their trading range, rather than holding out for further gains.

Day trading on the up in China You won’t find many countries where it’s better to day-trade than it is to buy and hold equities, but the Chinese market is not an ordinary one.

Bloomberg last week noted traders who buy at the daily open and sell at the close would have enjoyed returns of 23 per cent over the previous fortnight, almost three times more than the 8 per cent returned by the index over that period.

Government intervention ensured stocks invariably rallied into the close, giving the impression markets had stabilised following the recent carnage.

Furious snapback rallies often occur in the worst of bear markets, as we’ve noted recently. Chinese stocks should eventually go lower – valuations remain potty – but the government is using its entire arsenal to ensure otherwise.

Will it succeed? Yesterday’s slaughter – stocks fell 8.5 per cent, the biggest one-day fall since 2007 – indicates the government is up against it.

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