Today's stock market
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Energy shares rose as crude oil prices approached the $50 mark; the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT:XLE) closed up 1.3%. Retail stocks were also strong, with the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSEMKT:XRT) gaining 1.1%.
Apple rings in new phones
In the most anticipated tech event of the year, Apple unveiled its latest iPhone, Watch, and TV offerings on Tuesday to a packed house at its new Steve Jobs Theater. Loyal fans of its products were excited, but the event provoked little reaction in the company's stock today, which lost 0.8% in active trading.
Apple announced three new iPhone models for the first time, with the high-end iPhone X breaking new ground for pricing at a base of $999 and featuring an all-glass design with a 5.8-inch OLED display and camera innovations on both sides of the device. The TrueDepth front camera enables the Face ID feature, which will unlock the phone by scanning and recognizing the owner's face.
The other two models -- iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus -- fill in lower price points starting at $699, and are more of an evolution of the current iPhone 7 series, with improved cameras and (like the iPhone X) wireless charging.
Not to be overlooked in the excitement over new phones were announcements for the Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K. The new Apple Watch adds optional built-in cellular connectivity, eliminating the need to use the device in conjunction with an iPhone to use the most desirable features. The new Apple TV brings in support for the latest 4K high-definition video and will expand content options to include Amazon Prime Video along with iTunes, Netflix, and dozens of other services.
For investors, there was little in the announcements that hadn't already leaked, so the lack of surprise accounts for the small movement in the stock price, already up 38% in 2017. The increased complexity of the iPhone lineup -- now comprising five different product families including the 7, 6s, and SE -- will create challenges in forecasting and production, and a delay of iPhone X shipments until November could hurt fiscal fourth-quarter results. But Apple likely included enough goodies to maintain its dominance of the most profitable segment of the phone market, and could potentially see further growth from increased average selling prices across the lineup.
iRobot falls on competitive threat
Shares of consumer robot company iRobot plunged 15.7% after a short-seller commented on news released last week of new competition arriving from privately held SharkNinja. The maker of cordless upright vacuum cleaners had announced a connected, robotic version of its Shark ION vacuum, aggressively priced at $349. The new product includes Wi-Fi connectivity, and could be expected to compete with iRobot's recently announced Roomba 690, priced at $375.
The market for cleaning robots has boomed recently, so it's not too surprising that competition is heating up. iRobot is coming off a highly successful quarter, with revenue up 23% and profit spiking a whopping 64%. Even after today's decline, shares are up 46% in 2017. Investors cashed in on some of the year's gains based on the appearance of a specific threat, but it remains to be seen whether SharkNinja's offering can overcome iRobot's technological lead.