AAPL: What could go wrong?

April 4, 2011, 10:30 AM UTC

Two weeks before Apple’s Q2 earnings report, a flurry of negativity in the business press

“Apple shares aren’t just cheaper than the S&P, they’re bizarrely cheaper,” writes Tiernan Ray in the current issue of Barron’s. “Backing out cash and marketable securities of $60 billion, or $64 per share, … it trades at 11 to 12 times this year’s projected earnings per share, versus the S&P’s average of 14 times, despite EPS growth projected at 52% this year by analysts.”

For investors waiting for Apple’s (AAPL) shares to break out of the $330 to $360 trading range, that might sound like a promising start. Indeed, Ray begins his piece by pointing out that if those shares were to increase by 30%, Apple could overtake Exxon Mobil (XOM) and become the most valuable company on earth.

But then Ray starts interviewing money managers, and his article takes a negative turn, joining several others in a similar vein published over the weekend, including Rocco Pendolo’s Why I’m Selling Apple on Seeking Alpha and a Henry Blodget piece in Silicon Alley Insider that looked at the latest ComScore smartphone data and pronounced the fast-selling iPhone “dead in the water.”

Wall Street, it seems, is focused not on what’s going right for Apple, but on the things that could go wrong. These include, according to Ray’s sources:

  • Concerns that Steve Jobs won’t return from his medical leave
  • The sense the stock is too widely owned, making it increasingly hard to find new buyers
  • The feeling, after the release of the iPad 2 and the iPhone for Verizon, that “perfection” can’t continue
  • Fears that Apple’s margins could be hurt by Japan’s supply chain problems
  • Rumors that the iPhone 5 may not ship this summer, as expected, but perhaps in the fall
  • Worries about broader market factors, such as the end of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing

Sounds pretty dire, no?

But keep this in mind: In two weeks, Apple is scheduled to report what every analyst we’ve polled expects will be its best second fiscal quarter ever. If someone wanted to talk down the stock — making it cheaper to load up on shares in advance of another run — now might be the time to do it.