Throughout the summer, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock suffered as investors started to worry about slowing economic growth in China, mixed sales reports for the Apple Watch, and tough upcoming comparisons for the iPhone. Apple's share price, which was above $130 in mid-July, briefly fell below $100 in late August and spent most of September near the $110 mark.
These fears turned out to be unfounded. In late October, Apple reported that EPS jumped 38% year over year in Q4, beating the average analyst estimate by about 4%. It also projected solid (though much more modest) sales and earnings growth for Q1: the critical holiday quarter.
Yet it took the skeptics just two weeks to re-emerge in full force, sowing new seeds of panic among Apple shareholders. In the first four days of this week, Apple shares slid 4.4%, falling back below $120. These worries are just as unfounded as the ones dispelled last month, though.
Is iPhone demand shriveling up?
This week's episode of hand-wringing centers on the question of consumer demand for the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Several analysts are claiming (based on supply chain sources) that Apple has recently cut its iPhone component orders by perhaps 10%.
Many investors and analysts were already worried about whether Apple could match the record 231 million iPhones it sold in its recently concluded 2015 fiscal year. Apple's relatively bullish Q1 guidance had tamped down those fears, but naturally, these recent reports have stirred up investor anxiety once again.
This could be much ado about nothing
While it's possible that these analysts are onto something, it seems more likely that they're not getting the full picture. (Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously warned that supply chain orders are not a very reliable indicator of Apple's sales.) After all, Apple just issued bullish guidance in late October. It seems unlikely that its outlook would have completely reversed in a week or two.
In the short term, there are a couple of reasons to have hope for Apple. First, iPhone sales aren't likely to fall much, if at all, this year.
Apple has consistently met (and usually beaten) its revenue guidance since 2013. So it's almost guaranteed to post sales growth this quarter. Next quarter, it will have the benefit of the Chinese New Year holiday, which typically leads to a spike in sales in China. And in the back half of the year, it will face slightly easier comparisons. Indeed, anyone buying an iPhone in the second half of a product cycle is evidently not desperate to have the latest technology, so the fact that the iPhone 6s is a more incremental update than the iPhone 6 shouldn't matter as much.
Second, even if iPhone sales stagnate this year, non-iPhone revenue is likely to accelerate. The Apple Watch could potentially be a big gifting item this fall and around the Chinese New Year. Moreover, if history is a guide, the second-generation Apple Watch will sell even better -- and it could be coming in the first half of 2016.
The new iPad Pro and updated Apple TV also represent potential growth drivers. Apple even released a new iPod Touch for the first time since 2012 this summer, which could drive a short-term bump in sales for this declining category.
Focus on the big picture
Longer-term, there's even less reason to worry. We can be quite certain that after the iPhone 6s, there will be an iPhone 7. And when it comes, it will probably reinvigorate iPhone sales growth by offering more substantial improvements than this year's phones.
Indeed, it's worth remembering that iPhone sales growth has previously dipped as low as 7% in Q2 of fiscal 2013 and Q1 of fiscal 2014 -- but it quickly rebounded each time. A quarter or two of weak growth for Apple doesn't necessarily indicate a long-term trend of stagnation.
Thus, there's a good chance that all of the growth fears stirred up this week will be dispelled as nonsense when Apple delivers its next earnings report in January. But the odds are even better that Apple's performance over the next year or two will show that the tech giant hasn't peaked yet.
Adam Levine-Weinberg is long January 2016 $80 calls on Apple, short January 2016 $120 calls on Apple, and short January 2016 $140 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.