Shares of Apple (AAPL) have been more bruised than those of other Silicon Valley heavyweights by a technology stock selloff this week, with many on Wall Street cautious following the iPhone maker’s rally in recent months.
While its stock may not appear expensive in terms of expected earnings, some investors believe further gains in Apple will be less likely as an expected iPhone launch approaches.
“Anticipation of a new iPhone has been out there for a while now, and maybe we’re entering a period where the stock is topped out,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York. Apple accounts for about 4.5% of his firm’s equity exposure.
Apple has surged 48% over the past year to record highs, largely in anticipation that the Cupertino, Calif. company will launch an iPhone with major improvements to mark the device’s 10th anniversary.
The company typically unveils its new iPhones in September. Many analysts believe a large number of customers will upgrade to the new device from older phones.
A selloff in technology stocks that began last Friday has clipped 4.1% off the S&P 500 information technology index as investors worry about stretched valuations in 2017’s top-performing sector.
Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz cautioned in a note on Thursday that the “mega cycle” of iPhone sales expected this year may fall short of expectations due to competition in China.
Analysts from Pacific Crest and Mizuho Securities downgraded their ratings on Apple this month, both saying the benefits from the expected new iPhone are priced into the stock.
“Without this little flash crash, we were probably going to see some downward movement anyway on Apple,” said Brian Hennessey, portfolio manager of the Alpine Dynamic Dividend Fund. “There is some downside risk that was not there to nearly this extent at the beginning of the year. It’s partly timing as you get closer to the launch.”
Apple is the Alpine Dynamic Dividend Fund’s largest holding.
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It recently traded at 14.7 times expected earnings for the next 12 months, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream. That’s down from an earnings multiple of 16 in midday but above its five-year average of 12.2.
But Moskowitz warned that the earnings multiple is near the peak level of early 2015, when strong sales of the iPhone 6 pushed Apple’s stock to record highs, only to slip into a deep downturn.
Apple will probably be classified completely as a growth company in an annual rebalancing of Russell indexes on June 23, according to Jefferies.
After that drop in Apple’s stock extended into 2016, Russell allocated 8% of Apple as “value” in its investment style indexes, with 92% of Apple remaining “growth.”
The expected rebalancing of Apple in Russell’s subindexes reflects its recovery last year and recent record highs.