Just when investors were starting to feel good about their portfolios in 2019 and getting ready to enjoy the summer months, the tide turned for the markets on May 6. Now, following the rapid declines in the U.S. indices since President Trump’s tweets of May 5 regarding the trade war with China, many investors are left wondering whether the decline of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock has created a good entry point.
However, I would urge investors to not commit all their intended capital to AAPL stock in May. Here is why it is still too soon to invest in Apple stock.
Trade Wars and Apple Stock
With a market cap of $896 million, AAPL stock has the second highest weighting in the S&P 500, after Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). And China is Apple’s second-most important market.
Therefore AAPL has now become a proxy for the trade wars between the U.S. and China. In 2018, investors learned that Chinese consumers were starting to turn their backs on AAPL. On Apr. 30, Apple reported second-quarter China sales of $10.2 billion , a year-over-year decline of over 21%.
Almost 20% of Apple’s revenues come from China. In 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, sales of iPhones in China have declined. And there’s a good possibility that China’s economy will slow some more.
AAPL has already offered massive price discounts in China in March and April. The company may have to make those price decreases permanent to reach its sales targets. However, retaining those discounts would decrease AAPL’s margins and its long-term pricing power, also creating a headwind for Apple stock. Going forward, I do not think we can expect the competitive landscape for the iPhone to improve in China.
Furthermore, AAPL relies on Chinese suppliers and its mobile devices are assembled in China. Thus, Apple would have to react to tariffs either by increasing prices in the U.S. or absorbing the cost of the tariffs. The latter action would definitely have a major negative impact on Apple stock price.
It is no wonder that, since early 2018, but especially over the past few weeks, the trade dispute has negatively affected the price of Apple stock. The further the signing of the trade deal gets pushed out, the greater the adverse effect on Apple’s future earnings and AAPL stock could be.
Currency Headwinds and Apple Stock
I am also somewhat concerned about potential currency fluctuations in the coming weeks. The company’s SEC filing clearly identifies the potential negative impact of foreign currency movements on AAPL’s earnings. Almost half of Apple’s sales come from Pacific Rim countries or Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
During 2018, the weakening of foreign currencies, due to rate hikes by the Fed as well as the overall strength of the U.S. dollar, has translated into lower earnings for Apple. While the equity markets seemed to focus on China in May, it’s important to keep an eye on the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, too.
If the Chinese yuan falls further or if investors prefer the safety of the greenback during the escalating rhetoric with Iran, then Apple stock may take another hit. It is worth remembering that Apple pays its Chinese suppliers in U.S. dollars to assemble its products. However, its iPhones are sold to Chinese consumers in yuans. In other words, the dollar’s next move could impact Apple’s upcoming results, pushing its earnings towards the lower end of the guidance range.
If AAPL’s sales, margins, and revenue all decline in China amidst increased competition from local companies, including Huawei, and currency headwinds, then the multiple of Apple stock will drop.
In May or June, Apple may issue disappointing guidance for the current quarter, causing many investors to hit the sell button first and ask questions later.
Has the Good News Been Priced Into AAPL Stock?
Even before the concerns over the trade war reignited in early May, much of the positive news on Apple had already been priced into Apple stock.
During its event on Mar. 25, AAPL announced new video, news, gaming subscription services, and a credit card in partnership with Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS). However, despite these potential sources of new revenue, following the event, Apple stock initially declined.
Then on Apr. 30, the tech giant posted quarterly revenue of $58 billion, a decline of 5% from the year-ago quarter. Unit sales of iPhones also fell again. Since iPhone revenue accounts for over half of Apple’s total revenue, investors pay close attention to iPhone numbers.
Yet during the quarter, AAPL exceeded Wall Street’s average revenue and earnings estimates, mostly thanks to the strong numbers from Apple Services. The owners of Apple stock who remain committed to AAPL realize the importance of its Services business, which includes the App Store, Apple Pay, iTunes, AppleCare and Apple Music, to the company’s bottom line in the near-term and the longer term.
Following the earnings report, Apple stock initially rallied on May 1, hitting an intraday high of $215.31. Since then, it has fallen over 12%.
Investors would like to see AAPL clearly identify what the company’s next growth catalyst will be. In other words, Wall Street would like Apple to find its next big niche.
Short-Term Technical Analysis of Apple Stock
Although I firmly believe that Apple stock will perform well in the long-term, on a short-term basis, I expect AAPL stock to be choppy. Over the short-term, investor sentiment and price momentum affect the stock price of a company as closely watched as Apple stock is.
AAPL stock is down nearly 3% over the past 12 months. Right now the technical outlook of Apple stock is rather bearish. The stock price has been making lower highs in the past two weeks. Unless a Chinese trade deal is reached soon, this trend will not change or improve quickly.
I believe that Apple stock is likely to reach a 6-month low in late May or early June. If the markets continue to decline, AAPL stock could easily drop to the low $170’s or even the high $150’s .
However, if there is a quick resolution to the trade issues, then AAPL stock will likely rapidly gain 5%-8%. I expect resistance first at $192.5 and then at $200.
So Should Investors Buy AAPL Stock?
If you believe in the bull case for AAPL stock, and if you do not currently hold any shares, you might consider waiting for a better time to go long, such as $180 or even lower.
Year-to-date, AAPL stock is up 16%. Not all investors are comfortable with its increased volatility levels. If you are a shareholder who has been able to ride the impressive rally since early January, then you may want to take some of your profits in Apple stock.
Stocks tend to behave differently in a falling market than they do in a rising one. The down moves can be rather fast in a declining market, and a momentum stock like AAPL may become a falling knife. I personally do not like catching falling knives. Therefore, you may consider placing a stop loss at 3%-5% below the current price of Apple stock, to protect your profits to date.
If you are an experienced investor in the options market, you may also consider protecting your portfolio with a covered call. For example, for every 100 shares of AAPL you own around $190, you could sell an AAPL June 21 $190 call option. This approach offers downside protection in case of volatility and a decline of AAPL stock. It also enables investors to participate in a potential rally between now and the expiry of the option.
The Bottom Line on AAPL Stock
Over the long haul, robust fundamental numbers are what make a company worth investing in. The longer term outlook of Apple stock is strong, and the company has a clean balance sheet; therefore it remains a long-term play on growth. However, now that earnings season is behind us, the daily performance of Apple stock will depend on macroeconomic news as well as on the action of big day traders until the company reports its results in July. Thus, I do not expect Apple stock to go back over $200 in May, unless a satisfactory trade deal is announced.
As of this writing, Tezcan Gecgil did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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