The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.43%) and the broader S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.21%) are down just 0.16% and 0.08%, respectively, at 1 p.m. EDT. The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.12%. It's not helping sentiment that shares of Apple, the most valuable U.S. company, are now looking at the possibility of five consecutive losing days and 10 down days in 11 sessions, but here's why Apple investors ought to ignore this outright.
Apple: Take the long view
Shares of Apple fell 2.4% yesterday, following the publication of estimates from technology market research company Canalyst, according to which the Cupertino, Calf., giant lost its position as smartphone market share leader in China in the second quarter. In fact, Apple placed third behind local competitors Xiaomi (15.9% of smartphone shipments) and Huawei (15.7%), but remains ahead of its main global rival, Samsung.
If the share price decline is indeed a reaction to this report (and it's always tricky to tease these things out), I believe it is driven by traders or investors making a myopic analysis of these figures. Sales and market share numbers will necessarily fluctuate from quarter to quarter, and one data point does not constitute a trend.
Furthermore, there is every reason to believe the long-term outlook for Apple in China remains excellent. For an antidote to the grievous error that is investing myopia, it's worth going back to the comments Apple CEO Tim Cook made during the most recent earnings conference call only two weeks ago, in response to an analyst's question from UBS analyst Steve Milunovich regarding concerns related to China's economy and stock market [my emphasis]:
We remain extremely bullish on China, and we're continuing to invest. Nothing's that happened has changed our fundamental view that China will be Apple's largest market at some point in the future [...] the [Chinese] equity markets have recently been volatile. This could create some speed bumps in the near term.
And so, I think, generally, this has been -- or at least we see it, maybe it's not true for other businesses -- that this worry is generally overstated. So we're not changing anything. We have our pedal to the metal on getting to 40 stores mid-next year.
Note here the same contrast between what could happen in the short term ("speed bumps in the near term"), with Apple's longer-term outlook that is driving its strategy in China. The point at which China overtakes the U.S. is looming larger: In the last quarter, revenues from Greater China more than doubled yea over year, compared to just 15% growth for the Americas.
Mr. Cook went on [my emphasis]:
Also, and I can't overstate this: The rise of the middle class is continuing, and it's transforming China. I saw a recent study from McKinsey that's projecting the upper middle class to grow from 14% to 54% of households over the 10-year period from 2012 to 2022.
So we are within that period at this moment, and you can see -- for all of us that travel there so much -- with every trip, you can see this occurring. And so, I think we would be foolish to change our plans. I think China is fantastic geography with incredible, unprecedented level of opportunity there. We're going to be there.
He's inaccurate when he refers to McKinsey's projections, according to which the Chinese upper middle class will represent 54% of urban households in 2022 (at the end of 2014, urbanites represented 54.8% of the population). More importantly, however, his comment reveals the sort of time horizon he is considering in making investment decisions and setting strategy in China (and everywhere else, presumably), and shareholders ought to be delighted with this long-term approach for growth and value creation. Investors would be wise to adopt a similar timeframe -- out to 2022 and beyond -- if they own Apple or are deciding on whether to become shareholders.
Shares of Apple were down another 2.90% at 1 p.m. EDT. Part of the decline is almost certainly due to technical reason. It's been widely observed that yesterday's closing price represents a 10% correction regarding the stock's 52-week high and the first time it has closed below its 200-day moving average for the first time since Sept. 2013.
Those are even worse reasons for anyone who calls themselves an investor to sell the stock, as they have nothing whatsoever to do with the strength of the underlying business. I believe it's quite likely that three to five years from now (and perhaps sooner), it will be clear that todays' prices represent an attractive entry point.