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After a record first quarter where Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) drove indexes like the Nasdaq in unprecedented ways, the company had distinctly cooled off in recent weeks. In fact, before the gain today, Apple was off 18% from its recent highs. It was even down 13% since its last earnings, when it delivered earnings that trounced all Wall Street expectations.
Well, so much for the drop.
Just how big was the pop?
On a day in which markets were generally soaring, Apple itself saw a stunning 5.83% gain today. That's good enough to add about $29 billion to its market cap in a single day -- about double the size of Research in Motion and Nokia combined.
Facebook can't hold Apple back
Looking beyond Apple, the Nasdaq 100 (INDEX: ^IXIC ) was up 2.46% today as companies that had been deeply sold off across the downturn in May got their revenge. Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) , meanwhile, dominated the news cycle as its shares sold off just short of 11%. That wasn't enough to cause a sell-off in tech shares in general, though, and with good reason. Facebook should have sold off last Friday, were it not for the host of underwriters propping up its share price by buying billions' worth of its stock to avoid a PR nightmare. Without their support, the company's share price would have crashed last Friday.
Bluntly put: Facebook was reacting to what should have happened last Friday while the rest of the Nasdaq -- and Apple -- was reacting to today's news.
Why's Apple soaring?
Part of what drove Apple today was bullish comments from Chinese officials, and the other driver was positive analyst chatter.
One of the largest threats to Apple is telecoms pushing back against the heavy subsidies they pay on iPhones. Recently, big U.S. telecom Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) added an upgrade fee, and made decisions to end unlimited data plans. Those moves led many to believe that Apple's subsidies were in danger, which could damage not only margins but also total sales.
However, subsidy fears are overblown. The iPhone and its postpaid subscribers with lower churn are too large a draw for carriers in most countries to slash subsides and risk lost market share. Analyst notes today echoed that belief.
And about China ...
On the China front, the country's premier issued comments noting that the country will look to stabilize growth. As China is rapidly approaching the United States in terms of its importance to Apple, it's no surprise Apple investors latched on to these comments. However, it's worth noting that even with lower GDP growth from China, investors shouldn't be overly concerned.
Lower growth can mean the country is rebalancing from heavy spending in infrastructure and more toward consumer growth. Overall, that would be a net positive to Apple. I published a story earlier today that noted how important it is for investors to look beyond the headline figures in China's GDP rate. A lower GDP reading from China can actually be a net positive for Apple -- but only if the country is making the right steps to shift its GDP back toward consumer spending. Overall, the news does help show that China's economy should be resilient coming into a massive iPhone 5 refresh later this year.
The bottom line is that trading at just north of 13 times earnings and with a holiday upgrade cycle that should once again easily best expectations, Apple was due for a rally. Ignore the short-term fluctuations and keep the big picture in mind. Apple's still a great buy for investors.
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