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  • Apple: A Contrarian Investor's Dream Stock

    It has been a turbulent time for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) investors the past year as the share price fell from highs of $705 to close at $390 on Friday. With their Q2 results to be released on Tuesday, it may be a brave call to buy before, however for the contrarian investor is this the perfect opportunity?

    (click to enlarge)

    Source: Google Finance

    Why has the share price fallen?

    The stock has fallen 45% since its high in less than twelve months on fears that their flagship products; the iPhone and iPad are losing market share from the ever more competitive market.

    A number of companies who supply Apple parts have announced slowing sales which have spooked investors. Cirrus Logic (NASDAQ:CRUS) which supplies analog and audio chips for the iPhone and iPad announced good earnings, however ended the year with over $20m in inventory reserves which suggests slowing demand for Apple's products.

    The last five years have seen Apple in its mass growth phase, and it is difficult to quantify earnings potential and product demand until market saturation has been met. The latest announcement from Cirrus Logic highlights just this, whilst they had a great year, they may have overestimated continued demand for Apple products.

    The IDC recently released data for their Quarterly PC Tracker and revealed preliminary estimates had Apple ship 1.4m units, a 7.5% decline since 2012. They noted that this decline may have been due to a steep rise in competition for the iPad. With more competitors producing cheaper products, market share has been eroded.

    Will Earnings Suffer?

    Whilst Apple has been relatively reserved about pipeline products their current ones do a great job in hooking people for their next models. In 2011, UBS carried out some research into retention rates for the iPhone; this was a whopping 89% with its nearest competitor at 39%. Whilst we are a couple of years down the line, previous earnings have supported the results. The 2013 Q1 results showed a record haul for iPhone sales of 47.8m units compared to 37m a year before, iPads also followed suit selling 22.9m compared to 15.4m the year earlier.

    Although Apple looks to have more competition against Samsung and Microsoft the projected earnings for this year don't look to suffer that much as a result.

    First quarter in 2013 saw record revenue at $54bn, however gross margin had decreased somewhat from the year before.

    (click to enlarge)

    The fall in the share price has been attributable to very little hard facts and mostly on speculation. Whilst many have been worried over the reducing gross margin, this may have be down to cyclical factors used in product development. With the earnings looking to remain solid for 2013, contrarian investors will be licking their lips as the stock remains out of favor falling below $400 a share.

    Earnings per share looks to remain flat for 2013 which will not come as a surprise to many because the gross margin has decreased somewhat from 2012. Capital equipment expenditure ahead of the iPhone 5 release may have been the cause for this gross margin decrease and has the potential to rise again once the iPhone 5S is released as modifications to hardware are likely to be minimal.

    Using Apple's lower end estimates they are looking to grow revenue and net profit for 2013. The current share price, just based on earnings is very low and factoring in the vast amount of cash on their balance sheet, $150bn, the company looks even more attractive. To put it in perspective, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), a company with similar merit has a P/E ratio of 24.3 compared to Apple currently at 8.7.

    What is next for Apple?

    Pipeline products are fundamental in this fast paced technology sector, and the company has been relatively quiet about what is to come. They have hinted at a cheaper iPhone which should help snatch up some of the market share against the cheaper competitors and a new iPad release. It is likely there are more products on the development line which are sure to draw in a huge amount of revenue, however it is hard to pin point release dates.

    China Mobile is one of the world's largest mobile networks without direct access to the iPhone and this may be about to change as they look to invest $30bn in the new 4G network that will support it. Much time has been spent in generating a relationship with the company and this summer may see Apple gain further exposure to the Chinese market.

    One thing is certain, the ever growing cash level that dwarfs Apple's competitors provides potential for some significant developments. There are a number of uses for this cash that will be beneficial to the share price such as research and development, M&A, share buy backs or increased dividends.

    The share price has fallen back to levels seen towards the end of 2011 and it is unlikely earnings are going to do the same. The market is pricing in a dramatic fall in earnings for 2013 (almost 50%) and do not take into account new product releases.

    (click to enlarge)

    Out of 55 broker recommendations, 80% rate this stock as a buy with a mean price estimate of $602.

    Apple is a prime example of what contrarian investor's look for; stocks that are out of favor with earnings and balance sheet strength. I agree with the brokers and at $390 Apple shares are a steal.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in AAPL over the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

    Tags: AAPL, long-ideas
    Apr 21 5:32 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Has Gold Only Just Begun Its Long Journey Downwards?

    Gold headed lower today after Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and SocGen downgraded their outlook for the commodity last week. Since the start of 2013, gold has continued to be out of favor as investors begin to move into more prosperous investments. Equity markets took the lead as the S&P 500(NYSEARCA:SPY) reached record highs amid a sea of global loose monetary policy that spurred investors into real assets.

    Over the last few weeks we have seen a number of global issues, first from Italy, then Cyprus and more recently North Korea provoking its neighbors and the US. Usually gold would have reacted positively to this spurred by investors seeking a safe haven for their money, however as investors become more confident in equities this necessity to hedge risk through gold has diminished.

    Gold is treated by many as its own asset class, and with good reason. The precious commodity has shown very strong correlation over the past to a number of things. One of which has been confidence and optimism in global markets. Many would use gold as an emotional hedge, but as we have seen recently when people become more optimistic, downward pressure starts to mount.

    Friday saw gold fall below $1,500 an ounce for the first time since mid 2011 as central bankers urged investors to move into currency and equities as the economic outlook brightened. This was not the only reason behind this fall, last week the European Commission said Cyprus had committed to sell around $520m worth of gold which would be used to cover losses from recent emergency loans to the country.

    Earlier this year a few big names (George Soros) began unwinding large positions within hedge funds from the SPDR Gold ETF(NYSEARCA:GLD), prompting a number of other investors to follow suit. The introduction of gold ETFs in the mid 2000s has made this commodity very accessible to the retail and institutional investors and now this market makes up a significant proportion of the traded volume which can be both a good and a bad thing. If a sell off does gather pace, we could see sharper drops in the price of gold more than what we are used to, and this has been evident from selling on Friday and Monday.

    (click to enlarge)

    There are some buyers still out there, many central banks have been building up their reserves and 2012 saw the largest increase in demand since 1964 as the net was cast wider to include emerging market countries such as Paraguay, Venezuela and Brazil. Central banks bought a little over 534 tonnes of gold last year providing an important ballast to the price. However following on from recent movements in the gold price and subsequent downgrades on its outlook, we may see some central banks holding back on purchasing more, and as Draghi hinted, possibly selling. The following table shows how reserves for central banks stand as at December 2012.

    (click to enlarge)

    Historically Gold has acted as a fairly good inflation hedge and is included in many investment portfolios for this reason. However as we have seen with Japan, QE does not necessarily lead to inflation. The velocity of money is still very low as a majority of monetary easing is being used to purchase government debt, which is generally held by banking institutions, pension funds and insurance companies. As such, the money rarely filters down through the system. If this extra supply of money does not cause inflation, but rather lowers the prices of goods through weakening the currencies of developed nations it will actually bring with it heavy deflationary pressure. This is not a supportive environment for gold, and as we have recently seen CPI remains fairly subdued globally.

    (click to enlarge)

    The long term prospect for this commodity is becoming more unfavourable as many investors are aware the mass global monetary easing cannot go on forever. Since the onset of the credit crisis in 2008, we have seen almost $3tn of quantitative easing (QE) globally which has provided continuous support to Gold. However as the FED minutes again revealed, hawkish tones from a number of committee members give rise to doubts their 'unlimited' monetary easing will continue past this year. Furthermore, the recent announcement from Bank of Japan that they plan to do $75bn a month of QE had little impact on the gold price, giving the impression investors are becoming more skeptical about QE and its support for gold. Has this can been kicked down the road too much?

    Gold tends to react heavily to technical chart levels and as seen below it has broken through a fairly significant level at $1,530. Since doing so, in the space of a day, the price fell an extra 3% with spot gold closing at $1,483.

    (click to enlarge)

    After the weekend the market opened down another 5%, the day proceeded to spiral with spot gold hitting as low as $1,350, as institutional investors began selling. All the long term holders of gold may be saying it is so cheap now! But in relation to what? Gold has very little fair value, a small proportion is used in technology, a majority is in either jewelry or investment which pertains little real use. As such it is hard to quantify what a fair price is. With the environment for a high gold price diminishing, there could be very little in the way of gold falling all the way back to $200 and ETFs will facilitate it moving there that much quicker.

    Chart Sources: Wall Street Journal, The World Gold Council

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

    Apr 15 3:25 PM | Link | Comment!
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