Everyone seems to be treating Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) balance sheet as if it's a pinata these days. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty became the latest Wall Street pro to argue that the tech giant should ease up on its purse strings.

If Apple would devote the IT industry average of returning 68% of free cash flow to investors, the result would would be a hefty 6% yield. Apple could also be more aggressive with its share buybacks. However, it needs to be pointed out that the majority of Apple's cash is overseas and would face stiff repatriation taxes if it were to be brought back for either purpose.

More importantly, Apple hasn't been a laggard in recent months because its yield is too low. The market's genuinely concerned about the company's future. The smart money is on lower margins as Apple competes against cheaper mainstream products. Until Apple can prove that it can retain its market leadership without sacrificing its juicy markups, a lot of growth investors will remain skeptical.

Briefly in the news
And now let's take a quick look at some of the other stories that shaped our week.

  • The Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) story took an interesting turn after billionaire activist Carl Icahn revealed a 13% stake in the company in an SEC filing. Icahn has been debating the merits of Herbalife, but now he's putting his money where his mouth is.
  • CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) tumbled after slashing its dividend. The move sent shares of other regional telcos with potentially unsustainable yields lower, too. Sometimes you can't just phone it in, folks.
  • Blue Nile (NASDAQ:NILE) fell well short of Wall Street's revenue and profit targets in its latest quarterly report. The online retailer's engagement-ring business held up, but it was the rest of the high-end jeweler's business that stumbled. Investors got jilted at the altar.