How can they call Apple the ‘darling of Wall Street’? by Philip Elmer-DeWitt @FortuneMagazine May 13, 2011, 11:01 AM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons The stock is up 330% since its 2008 low, but that’s really nothing to write home about Click to enlarge. Source: Andy Zaky In an article posted Friday on Seeking Alpha, Fortune.com contributor Andy Zaky takes aim at a phrase that has attached itself to Apple AAPL recently: “the darling of Wall Street.” (Google it; you’ll be surprised how often it pops up in the financial press.) Apple is a darling, the thinking goes, because the stock has risen more than 330% from $80.49, the low it hit on Nov. 20, 2008, in the middle of the subprime mortgage crisis. But as Zaky points out, Apple had no business trading for $80 a share in a quarter in which its earnings grew 155%. Moreover, that breakneck growth has hardly slowed. Over the past five quarters, Apple’s EPS grew 86.0%, 74.6%, 67.5%, 75.2% and 92.2%, respectively. Yet the stock has been going nowhere since October. It closed at $346.57 Thursday, up only 8.6% in seven months. The NASDAQ-100 QQQ , by contrast, has rallied 18.22% over the same time period. Even the broader S&P 500 SPY has outperformed Apple, posting 16.2% gains since October. Apple’s price to earnings ratio — the value of the stock as measured by Wall Street — has actually been shrinking, as Zaky’s chart shows. Is that how the Street rewards its “darling”? ” What’s next?” he asks. “A janitor living in Manhattan is called rich because he received a 5% pay raise increasing his salary to $20,000 a year?” “What it should always comes down to is valuation,” Zaky writes. “Yet … we see Google GOOG report 17% earnings growth and trade a 20 P/E ratio and then watch Apple report 92% earnings growth and trade at a 16 P/E ratio… Amazon AMZN misses earnings expectation for the third time in five quarters, grows at a far lower growth rate than Apple on both the top and bottom line and trades at a 90 P/E ratio. Netflix NFLX also misses expectations, grows at a far lower growth rate than Apple on both the top and bottom line and trades at a 70.58 P/E ratio.” To give a better sense of how Apple — the company, not the stock — is growing, Zaky offers several charts, which with his permission we’ve reproduced below: Click to enlarge. Source: Andy Zaky Click to enlarge. Source: Andy Zaky Click to enlarge. Source: Andy Zaky You Zaky’s article is entitled “Apple’s P/E Ratio Falls to Lowest Level Since Financial Crisis Despite 92% Earnings Growth” and is available here.