Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock has been jerked around by the market a lot over the past couple of months. A late-November rally that sent shares above $560 for the first time since 2012 was abruptly ended in January, when the company reported underwhelming iPhone sales and shares fell about 8 percent overnight, hitting a trough around $500. But at that price — about 14.5 percent below the current mean analyst price target — investors seemed hungry for the stock, iPhone sales be damned. Shares have climbed more than 7 percent since the announcement, as the ebb and flow of the market batters the stock sideways.
Ever since touching all-time highs around $700 in September 2012, the market seems to have treated Apple stock as more of a trading vehicle than a legitimate investment. Before its long slide toward $400, “Apple was in a league of its own. There was nothing that you traded against Apple,” TD Ameritrade chief derivatives strategist J.J. Kinahan told CNBC at the end of January. But now Apple stock is in the mortal realm with all the other equities.
“What this has done is made Apple just another stock,” said Kinahan, “a great index stock of the tech industry. People can now use Apple in a pairs trade. Before, everyone was afraid to do it because Apple went straight up.”
This is not to say that Apple doesn’t have upside: Most of the market appears to believe that Apple has upside and that it’s only a matter of time before Apple rolls into another growth spurt.
Among those people are activist investor Carl Icahn and stock pundit Jim Cramer.
Icahn has hounded Apple for months to mobilize some of its enormous cash hoard and increase its share repurchase program. He was rewarded recently when Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company would deploy $14 billion over the course of two weeks for exactly that purpose — a move that Cramer took as an enormously positive sign.
“You wouldn’t spend $14 billion unless you’ve got something in the pipe that could dazzle,” Cramer said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. Cramer cited increased spending on research and development — up 31.7 percent on the year — as cause for optimism. All that money suggests that there’s something in the pipeline. The buybacks are icing on the cake, suggesting that Apple executives are confident they will see growth in the future.
Cramer added that Apple is currently one of his “favorite stocks in the market.”