TV anchors love to talk about how impossible it is to invest in Apple (AAPL) because the price is so high. My God, over $500/share!
That is a big number, and many investors still shy from the company because of it. Despite the fact the company is growing like hotcakes it still sits at a 14.4 PE.
There's a psychology to price that can cost you money. I remember, back in the 1990s, I had 300 shares of Intel (INTC), which was growing like Apple is today. It split, and I sold 100. It split again, and I sold 200. It split again, and I sold 200 more.
By the time the music stopped on the decade I had 600 "free" shares of Intel, which I still hold. But had I ignored the siren call of the splits and just let things ride, how much better off I'd be.
These days stock splits almost never happen. Managements tend to follow their own version of the Buffett Rule and let the price just go up. (A single share of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) now costs $118,747.) And in a corollary to that rule, many big companies (like Apple) refuse to pay dividends, figuring that if they give you cash it's like saying they have run out of ideas.
So here's the right way to look at the Apple numbers. Divide by 10. If you want 100 shares, buy 10. And divide other numbers accordingly.
Now your $505.19 stock becomes $50.52. But your amazing $27.68 in earnings per share last year becomes $2.79. The $100 billion in stock reportedly on the books becomes just $10/share.
Now you can look at things more rationally. The EPS on your $50 investment for the last four quarters is 64 cents, 79 cents, 70 cents, and $1.38. And what you ask yourself is, does that $1.38 look out of place.
Well, consider. PC sales usually rise during the fourth quarter, partly because of Christmas and partly because the end of the tax year is when many companies traditionally do their computer buying. So maybe it is. A little.
But consider the full year. Can Apple continue its sales momentum on iPhones and iPads going through 2012, and can its PCs continue to take market share? Has the growth in the iCloud topped out? How much faster can app sales grow? Will the rumored Apple TV be accretive to earnings, or a drag on them?
If the answers you get to those questions are yes, then do what I did and buy 10. Because if you don't, and you have a portfolio of any size, you're really shorting Apple. And I don't think you want to do that.
Additional disclosure: Like I said, I got 10.