Why Apple broke $100
Don’t you hate these “why Apple shares did such and such” headlines?
I know I do. They’re too often a journalistic ploy designed to make reporters look smarter than they are by linking two events that rarely have a causal relationship: The behavior of Apple’s shares on any particular day and … you name it … a rumor out of Asia, one analyst’s opinion, a piece of market data of dubious provenance.
But when Apple hits a new all-time high, especially after the shellacking it took in 2013, the mind craves reasons. Why did this happen?
The answer that cuts closest to the bone is that there is more money trying to get into the stock than out. Some of that is institutional investment, coming back to Apple after 2013’s panicked flight. Some of that is Apple cash, buying and retiring its own shares at a scale never before seen in the history of capitalism. Some of it — but not much — is retail investment by folks like you and me. Well, not me. But you know what I mean.
Step back a bit, and you can see that there are solid business reasons for the stock’s momentum to have changed. Apple’s last two earnings reports showed modest positive growth, after several quarters of the other kind. They also showed improved profit margins, heavy capital investment and impressive growth in iOS ecosystem metrics. Revenue from the slow-and-steady line item called iTunes/Software/Services has nearly caught up to Mac sales.
Meanwhile, Apple has become a dividend stock, which makes it attractive to a new class of less speculative investors. It currently yields an annual dividend of 2.1% — a rate that swells to an effective 8.5%, according to Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty, when you factor in a 9% reduction in the number of outstanding shares.
Take another step back, to the cliff edge of speculation, and you start to see the line-up of unannounced products that dominate the daily tech headlines: iPhones, iWatches, iWallets, iTVs, iPatents. Some of these things may be coming soon, some may never see the light of day.
Current speculation centers on a rumored Sept. 9 event where Apple may or may not unveil one or more larger-screen iPhones. Several forecasts suggest that such a phone from Apple might generate record-breaking sales.
The iPhone is already responsible for more than half of Apple’s quarterly revenue, so you can see why Wall Street’s interest is keen.
I have no reason to doubt the Sept. 9 date. Apple hasn’t said anything one way or the other, and I certainly haven’t received an invitation.
But the company often has a surprise or two up its sleeve. And I expect that anybody who really knows what’s coming has either signed a nondisclosure agreement or is prohibited from trading on the news.
That’s about as much as I know. What have you heard?
UPDATE: Reader Fred Stein writes:
What have I heard? Nothing new. But here’s a list of profit catalysts already announced:
3) Swift, METAL, and 64bit ARM — which will enable higher priced Apps (30% to Apple) and iOS stickiness for years
4) IBM alliance — easy money for years
5) 13 megapixel camera — A catch-up issue and important for digital telephoto.