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Stock Markets Stay Flat as Apple Approaches $2 Trillion; Bonds Swoon

By Dan Caplinger - Updated Aug 13, 2020 at 5:22PM

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Tech leadership continued in the market.

The stock markets went back to their old pattern on Thursday, sending mixed messages depending on which index you looked at. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.65%) and S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.14%) gave up modest amounts of ground, but the Nasdaq Composite rose by a similarly small percentage. Overall, markets seemed content to tread water near all-time highs awaiting more news on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the global economy.

Today's stock market


Percentage Gain (Decline)

Point Gain




S&P 500



Nasdaq Composite



Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Even in a flattish market, Apple (AAPL -1.19%) continued to impress, rising nearly 2% to set another record. The tech company now sits just a few dozen billion dollars below the $2 trillion mark in market capitalization, and the optimism that its imminent stock split has generated could have the company hurdling above that level soon. The news wasn't as good for another investment that's been doing well lately, as the bond market gave up ground as long-term interest rates rose.

An Apple a day

Apple's gains today stemmed from a couple of different sources. First, with tech stocks generally doing better than the overall market, Apple benefited from the same overall trends that have helped the Nasdaq outperform the rest of the market throughout much of 2020.

Reports also surfaced that Apple might be looking to up the ante on its services business. By compiling a bundle of various digital services under a single offering and charging an attractive price, Apple could produce even more gains in an area that it sees as vital to its long-term revenue growth. In particular, things like streaming video, streaming music, mobile video games, a news service, and cloud storage could entice members of the Apple ecosystem to pony up, producing greater amounts of recurring revenue for the company.

Many investors are looking forward to Apple's 4-for-1 stock split, which is scheduled to take effect Aug. 31. Although stock splits don't have any inherent impact on intrinsic value, bullish shareholders hope that the split will boost demand for shares and lead to a price increase. That's been the case thus far, but history suggests that any impact tends to be temporary. After the split, it'll be up to Apple to keep delivering the fundamentally strong performance that it's succeeded with for decades.

Yellow paper with word Bond highlighted.

Image source: Getty Images.

Have bonds topped out?

Beyond the stock market, bond investments fared poorly. Long-term Treasuries took the biggest hit, with the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond Fund (TLT -1.60%) losing more than 1% on the day. Broader measures of bonds that include both corporate securities and short-term bonds of all types saw more-limited losses, with the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND -0.64%) posting a 0.33% decline.

Interest rates were on the rise, responding to fewer people applying for first-time unemployment benefits. The 30-year Treasury now yields 1.43%, while the 10-year came in at 0.72%. Even small moves of 0.03 to 0.05 of a percentage point in rates are enough to cause the size of declines we saw in bond ETFs today -- revealing the inherent risk in those investments.

With signs of inflation and an improving economy, some believe that bonds could see much more dramatic long-term losses ahead. Yet many have made that call for years, only to see rates continue to drop further. As low as rates are now, they're not negative like they are in many other parts of the world. It might sound crazy, but the bull market in bonds might not be over even at current levels.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$172.07 (-1.19%) $-2.08
Vanguard Bond Index Funds - Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF Stock Quote
Vanguard Bond Index Funds - Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF
$75.48 (-0.64%) $0.48
iShares Trust - iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF Stock Quote
iShares Trust - iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF
$113.05 (-1.60%) $-1.84
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$33,777.03 (-0.65%) $-221.96
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$4,234.89 (-1.14%) $-48.85

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

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