We have covered a lot of bear market indicators this year. Every investor is understandably wondering when the next bear might bite. So how about this for an indicator—Apple just entered a bear market. Now we know that Apple’s decline seems to be quite particular to its own situation—especially the fear over iPhone sales that were cemented by the company’s announcement that it will stop reporting such figures—but what if it is a leading indicator for the whole market? Apple is not alone among big companies either—over 40% of the S&P 500 was in its own bear market at the October low in equities.
FINSUM: We do not think Apple’s bear market in its self signifies much about the underlying market. Apple’s trouble really stems from one issue—one of the most successful products in history is finally starting to see slower growth as the result of its own spectacular success. We do not think that is a bear market indicator.
The market fell in a big way yesterday. The root cause? Apple. Apple has cut its iPhone sales guidance, and it now seems a recession is coming to the whole Apple universe. The numerous companies that make their living supplying Apple seem set for a severe correction and are paring their estimates back sharply. Investors didn’t seem ready for this slowdown in the iPhone, perhaps misguided by the hype that has recently surrounded new models. The fact is that the iPhone is now a mature product, and maintaining the kind of growth it once had is likely untenable, a fact that even Wall Street analysts are starting to admit.
FINSUM: Apple’s business is changing and it seems to be doing a good job managing that transition, though everyone hopes it will have a new dynamite product. That said, a general recession surrounding the iPhone universe seems likely.
Apple’s stock got hit in a big way last week as the company announced it would no longer announce unit sales of iPhones. The announcement was taken as a sign of weakening iPhone demand. An analyst summed it up this way, saying “Apple Reduces Disclosure; Typically Not a Good Sign”. The stock has fallen 10% since the announcement. The more positive view is that Apple wants investors to focus more on its earnings than on its unit sales, as earnings are ultimately what will drive the shares forward.
FINSUM: Apple’s shares often fall on earnings (8 out of the last 15 times), so the company has little to lose by eliminating unit sales. We think this is a smart move, especially as the iPhone transitions to being a highly saturated and mature product.
If you are looking for the canary in the coal mine for the current market turbulence, look no further than a handful of stocks that should show investors where things are headed. Especially for the Dow. The index’s gains this year have largely come from three stocks: Apple, Boeing, and UnitedHealth Group. 16 stocks in the 30-stock index have losses this year, but because of the quirky way the Dow is calculated, some smaller market capitalization companies have much more weight than larger ones (weighting is done by share price not market cap). Accordingly, this trio has outsized importance to the index, and if they fall, the Dow is likely to get badly hurt.
FINSUM: The Dow is quite funky, but this story points out just how vulnerable the whole index looks right now.
Apple is reported to be set unveil some big changes in the coming weeks. In what many see as Apple’s third phase, the company is set to release brand new iPads and watches. If personal computing was phase one, and iPhones were phase two, then phase 3 will be wearables, say analysts. The company has seen sales in those divisions soar recently, and they have slowly stolen wallet share from the iPad’s sales. Accordingly, Apple is putting more resources into wearables, but also debuting a new iPad and trying to redefine its purpose for customers.
FINSUM: The iPad has slowly been shrinking from the limelight at the same time as the Apple Watch and Beats have steadily grown. It is hard for us to imagine that either category will be Apple’s main sales driver in the future.