Well, by now you should all know that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) reported a rare earnings miss Tuesday evening. Shares sold off more than 5% after the bell, bounced back a bit but still were down 4% at Wednesday’s open.
I’ll cut right to the chase: If you’re a swing trader, it might be wise to consider Apple a trouble spot in the near term. But if you’re a long-term investor, this is one of the best positions to be in — so do not panic.
Regarding the short term, here are the risks:
- Earnings Miss: Apple showed revenues of $35 billion, and earnings per share were $9.32. That’s against Street forecasts of revenues at $37.25 billion and earnings at $10.35. Those are not rounding errors, but significant misses and a cause for concern for any company.
- Guidance: Worse, Apple guided lower than expected — revenues of $34 billion and earnings of $6.65 per share for Q4. This compares to the consensus of $38 billion and $10.22. More significant misses of expectations, and a clear admission of a disappointing short-term outlook.
- Macro: The global economic picture is bleak — from Europe to China to a flagging “recovery” at home. Apple is not immune to these trends, and China is of particular concern since that has long been touted as a huge area of future growth beyond the earnings story.
- Sentiment: Apple is a crowded trade, and was up 48% year-to-date before this earnings report. That might have been too much too fast … meaning all the previous bullets could change this fashionable status fairly significantly.
Click to Enlarge Ugly stuff, right? No wonder Apple is down and could drift lower for a few weeks. But here’s why if you’re a long-term investor, you shouldn’t be shaken:
- Slower Growth Priced In: Consider that AAPL stock is predicted to earn $55 in 2013. That means if shares get in the $550 range, you are buying this tech behemoth for a forward price-to-earnings of 10. Like seemingly every investor on the planet, I dabble in Apple stock, and my most recent purchase was on a brief dip in May down under $550 for just this reason. I think that’s a great entry point for new investors.
- Forecast, Shmorecast: Keep in mind that Apple always provides low-ball guidance, and historically has played its cards close to the vest to “surprise” Wall Street. Consider that after its Q1 earnings in October 2011 missed, the company followed up with a 36% earnings surprise and saw profits soar 118% year-over-year in Q2 numbers released in January. Shares were in the low $400s before that report … and jumped 50% in two months afterward.
- iPhone 5: The only reason you should really freak out in the long-term is if you believe the iPhone 5 will not be well-received. Yes, cheaper phones from companies like Samsung and other slick gadgets running the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android OS are legit competition to Apple sales. However it seems knee-jerk to think the brand power of Apple will evaporate overnight. If the iPhone 5 flops, then Apple will have a serious problem … but I certainly am not betting against AAPL just because of this one earnings report.
- Shrinking Field: You think Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) or Nokia (NYSE:NOK) will exist five years from now? Not likely. Do you think tech dinosaurs like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) or Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) will somehow create a great consumer gadget that takes Apple by surprise? Please. Even if you think Google will hang tough with smartphones and that the Kindle from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Surface from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will be successful, there’s a huge and ever-growing pool of customers that an increasingly small group of gadget companies serve. Apple is not RIMM, people.
- Dividend: Apple will pay a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share on Aug. 16. At $10.60 annualized, that’s a yield just shy of 1.9% at current valuations after the bell. Not burning down the house … yet. You can rest assured that Apple will boost that dividend going forward considering the payout represents less than 20% of future earnings. Furthermore, remember the headline yield is only applicable to new investors. If you bought at $400 a share in 2011, your yield on cost actually is almost 2.7%. Think about that.
- Few Growth Options: The bottom line is that if you want growth, there ain’t many options these days. Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) is off 25% since ugly earnings, proving the momentum has stopped there big-time — and other momentum darlings are showing weakness. If you want to chase small-caps with higher risk, that’s fine. But Apple seems pretty low-risk to me consider its gadget dominance and the organic demand for smartphones and tablets in the long-term.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he owned a long position in Apple.