Apple's Stock: How Low Can It Go?
Business + Economy

Apple's Stock: How Low Can It Go?

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Apple may have lost nearly half of its value since its peak in September, but it's still the talk of the town. Only this time, it's all about how low can it go?

Wall Street would normally be set for a technical rebound after a drop of more than 2 percent, the worst weekly decline so far this year. But that could easily change by the time the iPhone maker reports its earnings, which are due on Tuesday after the closing bell.

"It's not the $700 stock anymore, but Apple still has huge weighting on indexes, and it's still the window into the state of consumers, a sort of reality check," said James Dailey, portfolio manager of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based TEAM Financial Asset Management.

Wall Street has been recently pressured by a slew of disappointing economic data and weaker-than-expected earnings reports from blue-chip companies like IBM (IBM).

For the week, the Dow fell 2.1 percent, the S&P 500 also lost 2.1 percent and the Nasdaq slid 2.7 percent. "The critical level next week would be 1,540 on the S&P 500, which is near the 50-day moving average," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.

He added that a dip below this mark would bring "additional weakness to as low as 1,500 levels."

On Friday, the benchmark S&P 500 index closed at 1,555.25.

With the earnings season in full swing, the growth in S&P 500 companies' first-quarter earnings is now estimated at 2.2 percent, up from an April 1 forecast for growth of 1.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data, based on results from 104 companies and estimates for the rest.

Of the companies that have reported, 67.3 percent have beaten analysts' earnings expectations, while just 43.3 percent have beaten revenue estimates. Revenue growth is seen at just 0.7 percent for the first quarter over the year-ago period.

About a third of S&P 500 companies and a third of the Dow components - 10 blue-chip companies - are scheduled to report earnings next week.

Among Dow stocks, Caterpillar (CAT) kicks off on Monday, followed by DuPont (DD), United Technologies Corp (UTX) and Travelers (TRV) on Tuesday. Boeing (BA) and Procter & Gamble (PG) report on Wednesday, followed by Exxon Mobil (XOM) on Thursday. Chevron (CVX) wraps up the week by reporting on Friday.

Once a Wall Street darling, Apple faces tough questions from shareholders next week. Its stock is down more than 40 percent from its peak in September. And for this year alone, Apple is down 27 percent - still firmly in the grip of a bear market, which Wall Street defines as the loss of 20 percent or more from a recent peak.

The company is expected to report a mere 8 percent gain in quarterly revenue, among the weakest displays of quarterly growth in years, according to average analysts' estimates, polled by Reuters. Earnings per share are expected to fall 18 percent as Samsung Electronics and other hard-charging rivals erode Apple's market share and put pressure on its margins.

"The market is aware that Apple is not going to report good numbers. But it will be interesting to see how the stock reacts, considering that it's already been pressured leading up to the earnings announcement," Dailey said.

Apple shares closed below $400 on Thursday for the first time since December 2011. The stock has shed more than $280 billion in market value since peaking at more than $700 a share in September. On Friday, the stock closed down 0.4 percent at $390.53. But Apple, which was once the world's most valuable company, is trading at nine times trailing earnings. And 45 of 58 analysts polled by Reuters give the stock a "strong buy" or "buy" rating.

According to Thomson Reuters Starmine, Apple's intrinsic value - a price target based on expected growth rates over the next decade - was about $565 a share.

Economic indicators in the coming week will cover housing, manufacturing and a first look at first-quarter gross domestic product. In the housing sector, March figures for existing home sales are due on Monday and new home sales on Tuesday. Economists polled by Reuters have forecast slight gains in both March existing and new home sales over February figures.

U.S. durable goods orders for March will be released on Wednesday, with the forecast calling for a drop in March following February's gain. Durable goods are manufactured goods, such as washing machines and refrigerators, meant to last three years or more. Thursday's data on weekly U.S. initial claims for jobless benefits are projected to dip to 351,000 for the latest week.

On Friday, Wall Street will get a snapshot of the broad economy, measured by gross domestic product, or the output of all goods and services inside U.S. borders. First-quarter GDP is forecast to have grown at an annual rate of 3 percent, compared with growth at an annual pace of just 0.4 percent for the fourth quarter.

A final reading for April on U.S. consumer sentiment will come out on Friday from the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. The forecast calls for a blip higher to a reading of 73.0 from a previous reading of 72.3.

This article is by Angela Moon of Reuters. Additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch and Doris Frankel.