Apple Needs to Come Up Big Next Week

Each week, I report the results of the Big Idea Portfolio, a collection of five tech stocks that I believe will crush the market over a three-year period. I've done it before; my last tussle with Mr. Market ended with me beating the index's average return by 13.35%.

Real money was on the line then as it is now, which means any one of the five stocks you see below could cause me a lot of public embarrassment. Who was the culprit this time? Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , which is already down 6% year to date. Any hint of weakness in next week's earnings report could send the stock plummeting.

Investors already fear the worst thanks to reports of shrinking demand. Japan's Nikkei reported that Apple cut its iPhone 5 parts order in half last month. The Wall Street Journal followed up with news of canceled orders for related components for other devices. All of which would, indeed, be worrying if we weren't talking about the seasonally weak first quarter.

We also know Apple made record-breaking  component purchase commitments ahead of the holiday quarter. Expecting another record breaker in Q1 makes no sense, as my Foolish colleague Evan Niu points out here. Apple could be modifying its order book for any number of reasons.

Meanwhile, analysts at Citi say their channel checks suggest the Mac maker probably sold out of the iPad Mini during the holiday quarter. That's good news: The higher-margin Mini could help offset pressures elsewhere. A strong showing for the device could also help to alleviate fears that Amazon.com and Google might dismantle the iPad franchise with cheaper tablets.

Samsung's rise also appears to be contributing to the sell-off. The consumer-electronics giant has already sold more than 100 million of its Galaxy S smart handsets and is expected to introduce a fourth-generation device -- the SIV -- in either April or May. Apple could refresh the iPhone 5 not long after. All signs suggest that these two are engaging in a more heated battle for users.

What's the Big Idea this week?
Among the remaining stocks in my portfolio, only Riverbed Technology improved from last week. Unfortunately, the comparable S&P 500 SPDR gained more after factoring in dividends and returns of capital. All told, Mr. Market recaptured 309 basis points.

All markets rallied, but small caps took the crown as the Russell 2000 rose 1.09%. No other index came close. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.79%, while the S&P 500 improved 0.60% and the Nasdaq closed up 0.33%, according to data supplied by The Wall Street Journal. Here's a closer look at where I stood through Thursday's close:

Company

Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Apple

$418.68**

$502.68

20.1%

Google

$650.09

$711.32

9.4%

Rackspace Hosting

$41.65

$77.33

85.7%

Riverbed Technology

$25.95

$19.99

(22.9%)

salesforce.com

$100.93

$171.13

69.6%

AVERAGE RETURN

--

--

32.38%

S&P 500 SPDR

$124.94**

$148.00

18.46%

DIFFERENCE

--

--

13.92%

Source: Yahoo! Finance.
* Tracking began at market close on Jan. 6, 2012.
** Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Notable newsmakers
The usual suspects dominated the remainder of the tech news cycle this week:

  • On Tuesday, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) introduced Graph Search. The idea: Draw from your friends, their friends, your "likes," and other data the social network keeps in order to bring context and specificity to searches. For example, if you're a new Mac user and need a friend to help set up your system, Graph should allow you to find out who among your network are self-identified Mac users who may be able to lend a hand.
  • On Thursday, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) reported a fourth-quarter earnings beat but weak first quarter guidance. Worse, the chipmaker appears on track for a full-year decline in revenue as efforts to diversify beyond PCs aren't supplying enough growth.
  • Startup Pokki reached 1.5 million downloads for Pokki Menu, an app that mimics the look and feel of the "Start" menu that used to welcome Windows users to their PCs, and which was lost with the introduction of Windows 8. Should Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) bring it back? Mr. Softy says it has sold 60 million licenses of the new OS, so there's probably no rush for it to change.

What caught your eye in the tech world this week? And what are you expecting from Apple's earnings report next week? Please weigh in using the comments box below.

What's inside Supernova?
If you're an investor looking to profit from big ideas, you're in good company. Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner has unearthed dozens of multibagger winners by recommending and investing in revolutionary stocks before Wall Street catches on to their disruptive potential. If you're interested in how he discovers his winners, click here to get instant access to a personal tour behind David's Supernova service.


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