Perspective on Apple (
Crowd Psychology vs. Fundamental Analysis
Other Stock Buying Factors
Apple stock (
) is a classic example of how crowd psychology trumps fundamental
analysis in determining the short-term price of a stock.
AAPL is currently selling at about 10 times earnings. Microsoft
), now considered way past its prime and bloated with cash, is
selling at 15 times earnings, and stodgy IBM, which had its prime
decades ago, is selling at 14 times earnings. Never mind that
) sells at 540 times earnings and Amazon's (
) P/E is so high, it's almost incalculable.
So, even if analysts could peg the exact amount of earnings that
any of these companies will produce, the multiple placed on those
earnings by the investing public can vary by a factor of 100, and
stock prices can vary accordingly. If AAPL were accorded a multiple
of even 14.5 (the average of MSFT and IBM), its stock would be 45%
higher-a mere 250 points.
What this tells you loud and clear is that while analysts labor
mightily to calculate project a company's projected earnings to
within pennies, how much the investing public (which of course
includes institutional investors as well as mom & pop) is
willing to pay for each penny of these earnings is vastly
subjective … and will vary greatly over time. This goes for the
overall market as well as for individual stocks.
Apple enjoys a special place in our pop culture. Its story is
legend. Its founder was an icon. Its personal computers are
expensive yet highly praised. And millions of us now have its
phones and other hand-held gadgets in our pockets, purses and
briefcases. Behavioral studies have shown that when we buy or sell
a stock, these factors play a prominent role in our decision. How
much is tough to measure, but it's more than most people
So, while the company enjoyed a lofty perch as the world's
largest (in capitalization) when the stock hit 700 last September
and analysts were predicting it would hit 1000, it now sits near
450 and analysts are cutting their targets.
For better or worse, that is the way herds behave, and humans
exhibit as much, if not more, herd behavior than buffalo on the
prairie. (Studies also show, by the way, that highly trained
securities analysts are no different than the rest of us in this
I'm not offering all this as either a buy or sell recommendation
in AAPL right now, but as a perspective on its huge advance and
subsequent decline in price over the last year in the context of
how group psychology works. The graph below illustrates the
trajectory of stock price relative to quarterly earnings. It makes
quite a statement about the ability of a stock's price to track its
I will end by tossing out a rhetorical question to ponder: How
comfortable do you feel paying hundreds of times earnings for
stocks like NFLX or AMZN while selling one of the world's most
innovative company's shares at 10 times earnings?
Sometimes, it pays not to be part of the herd.
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