By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 10, 2011

Trading in the company’s shares Monday was slower than it’s been since New Year’s Eve, 2010

Apple (AAPL) has been trading in a narrow band this year — to the undying frustration of investors who think the stock’s price ought to reflect the company’s breakneck earnings growth (EPS up 75%, 68%, 75% and 92%, respectively, over the past four quarters).

Apple’s trading volume, by contrast, is as changeable as a baby’s bottom, swooping and diving with the news.

But Apple’s third busiest day of the year, it happens, was Friday, April 28. That was the last trading day before NASDAQ put itself on an Apple diet, reducing the company’s weight in the heavily traded NASDAQ-100 from 20.5% to 12.3%. Nearly 36 million shares of Apple changed hands before the closing bell, plus another 8.4 million in after-hours trading, as fund managers rushed to rebalance their portfolios. (See An orgy of last-minute AAPL trades.)

Since then, volume has fallen off sharply and on Monday, as reader Jim Neal points out, Apple had its sleepiest day of the year, with only 7.31 million shares changing hands. You have to go back to New Year’s Eve, 2010, to find a day with so little action.

“Curious,” Neal writes. “This in spite of the Nuance rumor, Apple being named the world’s most valuable brand and Goldman’s Bill Shope saying ‘we would be aggressive buyers.’ “

As for Apple’s share price, it’s being held hostage, we’re told, to the weekly options traders who somehow manage each Friday to bring the stock’s price below the strike price of the calls they sold the week before, rendering them worthless. Aren’t there rules against that?

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