Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Apple Stock: Buy, Sell, or Hold?

By Daniel Sparks – Updated Apr 23, 2020 at 8:22AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The tech giant's shares have already rebounded sharply. Is it too late to buy?

While many stocks have rebounded sharply since the coronavirus market crash in February and March, some still remain well below recent highs. Apple (AAPL -0.12%) is one of those stocks. Shares are trading at $276, down about 16% from a high in February.

Notably, however, the stock is significantly higher than the sub-$230 prices Apple shares briefly touched in mid-March. Have investors who have been sitting on the sidelines missed their opportunity to buy shares of the tech giant? Or is Apple still attractive at this price?

Here's a close look at Apple stock -- and why it remains a good buy for long-term investors.

Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi unveils iOS 13 at WWDC 2019

Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi. Image source: Apple.

What about the coronavirus?

Like many companies, Apple will likely see suppressed sales for the quarters ending in March and June. Indeed, we already know that the tech giant's second quarter of fiscal 2020 (the quarter ended on March 31 was negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In mid-February, the company retracted its guidance for the period and said that it saw supply constraints and weakened demand in China. Weak demand likely occurred in other markets as the quarter progressed since the coronavirus outbreak spread beyond China in the second half of February.

But shares have arguably already been discounted to account for these impacts. The stock trades at 22 times earnings today, down from a price-to-earnings ratio of about 26 before in mid-February. If the coronavirus pandemic proves to be a temporary headwind, demand for Apple's devices may spring back and this decline in the tech company's stock price may look like a great buying opportunity in hindsight.

2 powerful catalysts

Looking beyond the near-term challenges presented by the coronavirus, one of the main reasons to be bullish on Apple's potential in the coming years is its two fastest-growing segments: services and wearables, home, and accessories. These two businesses have seen explosive growth recently and the bigger of these two segments may actually benefit from more consumers' sheltering at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A line chart showing the trailing-12-month revenue over time of Apple's two fastest-growing segments.

Data source: Apple's quarterly SEC filings. Chart by author.

Apple's most important catalyst is its services segment, which includes revenue from the company's own services, such as Apple Music, Apple Care, and Apple TV+, as well as its share of revenue from third-party app sales and subscriptions on its platform. Accounting for 18% of trailing-12-month revenue, services is the company's second-largest segment. In addition, it operates at a higher gross profit margin than the rest of the tech giant's business, enabling the segment to have an outsize impact of Apple's bottom line. Consider that in fiscal 2019, Apple's hardware business had a gross margin of 32% while services' gross margin was 64% -- twice as high. Further, services revenue is growing rapidly, posting year-over-year revenue growth of 16% in fiscal 2019. In addition, with more people sheltering at home, screen time has likely increased and Apple's services revenue may see a boost during this pandemic.

Then there's Apple's wearables, home, and accessories business, which includes revenue from wearables products like the Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones, as well as revenue from Apple's smart speaker and other accessories. This segment has seen even faster growth than services, driven by soaring wearables sales. Trailing-12-month wearables, home, and accessories revenue is up 41% year over year and accounted for 10% of revenue during this period.

Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Watch Series 4. Image source: Apple.

It wouldn't be surprising to see combined services and wearables revenue account for a third of the tech giant's revenue in fiscal 2020. That's a large enough share of revenue to have a material impact on Apple's overall business given the two segment's staggering growth rates.

Of course, Apple investors can't ignore iPhone. The product accounted for 55% of trailing-12-month revenue.

A pie chart showing Apple's trailing-12-month revenue by segment

Data source: Apple's quarterly SEC filings. Chart by author.

Even more, over this same timeframe, iPhone revenue declined 6% year over year.

But the smartphone isn't down and out. In the tech company's most recently reported quarter, iPhone revenue jumped 8% year over year and the new iPhone 11 was the top-selling iPhone model every week throughout the quarter.

Should you buy Apple stock?

Apple's ability to demonstrate a quarter of strong growth with its newest iPhones, combined with the company's fast-growing services and wearables, home, and accessories segments, make the stock's conservative valuation today look appealing. While there are risks to owning any stock, this does look like a good buying opportunity for investors willing to hold shares for the long haul.

Of course, Apple shares aren't a bargain at this level. Investors who do buy shares now, therefore, may want to consider keeping the purchase very small as a percentage of their total portfolio. Then, if shares fall for one reason or another even as the company's' long-term growth prospects remain intact, investors might want to consider adding to their position.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$146.23 (-0.12%) $0.17

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 10/06/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.