Steve Jobs strikes again.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock is down for the third time in a month on concerns over the CEO’s health. The first selloff occurred on January 18th after Apple had announced that Steve would be taking a leave of absence, the stock sold off from $348 to $326. The second Steve Jobs selloff is referred to as the Apple flash crash after a hospitalization rumor caused the $6 drop in four minutes.
Today we see Apple off 1.1%, or $4, on the report from the National Enquirer that he may have six weeks to live.
This National Enquirer thesis comes by way of a doctor who observed the pictures of Steve and speculated that his cancer has relapsed and is now in its terminal stages. It would seem logical that if Steve were terminal, Apple would have replaced him permanently back on January 17th ... but with Apple and Steve, you never know. This guy has always been described as a workaholic and in this case, the decision is entirely in his hands. I highly doubt that any board member would refuse Steve’s wish to remain part of the company. It’s a terrible thing that Steve’s privacy is invaded by reckless speculation regarding his health but as long as he is part of Apple, investors will be forced to deal with the issue.
After the first selloff the stock took 15 trading days to reclaim its prior high of $348. The flash crash of February 10th saw a recovery by the end of the day on news from the WSJ that Steve had been spotted on the Apple campus. In both of those cases it was profitable to buy AAPL on the initial dip. It’s becoming obvious that this stock is no longer priced for a Steve Jobs premium. Everyone already assumes he’s in bad shape. There’s not an Apple investor who thinks otherwise. Confidence is beginning to build that any stock dip on this kind of news should be bought.
Apple is the undisputed market leader and there isn’t any other company in a close second. Investors who sell Apple because of Steve’s health start getting antsy after a day or two on the sidelines. What are they going to do? Go load up on Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)? The Apple growth story is in its sweet spot and its low comparative valuation has investors looking to buy any dips; that is the primary reason why the dips haven’t lasted very long. The Steve Jobs premium is gone but the fundamentals remain.
It’s quite a tribute to Steve’s accomplishment as a company builder that this stock has been so resilient. There is a real possibility that on the day we hear of Steve’s death (hopefully many years down the road!) that AAPL will actually finish the session higher as the uncertainty regarding his health is no longer an issue. There is nothing that investors hate more than uncertainty. This is part of the reason why AAPL has performed better without Steve than it has with him over the last two years. In the short run traders will freak out and sell but long term investors are showing a desire to step in and buy.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.