Apple Sinks Again, But Bright Spots Emerge


Apple (NAS: AAPL) sank 2.4% today, bringing its losses past 6% in the past two days. Stretch your timeline back a bit further to the day the iPhone 5 was released and losses now stand at 23% in less than two months.

Yet, for all the negativity, there were some positives coming out of the smartphone space that could reflect on the strength of Apple heading into the holiday season. Let's take a look at the battle surrounding Apple's recent sell-off, and the positive news that points to better news ahead.

Mo' market cap, mo' problems
The common refrain around Apple has been a series of bad news that's rocked the stock since the iPhone 5's launch. First, opening weekend iPhone 5 sales disappointed. Shortly after, the fallout over Maps led the company to apologize and suggest users download alternative mapping applications. Then Apple missed earnings for the third time in three quarters and introduced the iPad Mini at a price point above expectations. Finally, Apple rounded all this news up with the unexpected sacking of iOS chief Scott Forstall and delaying of the next version of iTunes.

If you look at all those events without context, it definitely looks like Apple's a wounded giant finally reaching the limits of its own growth and beginning to show the strains of operating without Steve Jobs.

The other side of the coin
However, with more context, the events often don't look as damning to Apple's future as headlines might suggest. The iPhone 5 underperformed versus expectations in its opening weekend, but that was largely due to supply constraints. Its shipping times have stubbornly stayed at three to four weeks even as the phone has been on the market for months.

Apple's earnings were a slight disappointment, but they came in a quarter where the iPhone had limited availability. The real test will come next quarter when a full quarter of iPhone sales are recorded.Then we have the Mini, which despite some quibbles with its screen, has largely garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews and whose opening weekend sales surpassed estimates in spite of once again being supply constrained.

Finally, while Forstall created iOS, most reports from inside the company indicated he'd become a divisive figure. Not only that, but many of his recent initiatives (Maps, Siri) were underwhelming.

That's not to say Apple's past couple months have been a walk in the park. Far from it. However, when the investing narrative turns on a company, there can be an inordinate amount of focus on any weaknesses, and after a decade of unrivaled success, everyone's looking for some cracks in Apple's foundation.

Positive news for Apple
The most positive news today surrounding Apple was earnings from Qualcomm (NAS: QCOM) , one of the company's largest suppliers. Qualcomm's business model centers on two areas: communications chips and collecting royalties from mobile devices.

Qualcomm's central licensing position allows the company to have great visibility into the smartphone industry. So, the company projecting revenue next year ranging from $23 billion to $24 billion speaks well to the continuing growth of smartphones.

Not only that, but Qualcomm projected 2013 growth in 3G and 4G devices to be 10% to 18%, roughly equal to demand in 2012. The point? Despite continued hand-wringing over Apple running out of consumers to sell to, the growth in smartphones should remain robust next year, with average selling prices remaining intact, as well.

Fears to last
The issues leading to Apple's sell-off are beyond the company itself. For example, Apple sold off yesterday in part because of concerns of Europe's slowdown spreading to Germany and the fiscal cliff hurting U.S. growth. Those are fears that will affect any company, with growth companies in particular.

However, with Apple now trading down near 12 times earnings, it's not priced like a growth company anymore. While macro worries and negative headlines could keep Apple careening south, the central storyline remains that the iPhone 5 demand remains robust and central smartphone players like Qualcomm are predicting continuing better-than-expected growth in 2013.

More Apple advice
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Eric Bleeker has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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