It's a fire sale in Cupertino.
Shares of Apple (NAS: AAPL) have now fallen for five consecutive trading days, and yesterday was a doozy. The stock's 4% slide -- off by $25.10 a share -- was the single largest point drop in Apple's history.
A nearly 9% plunge in Apple shares over the past five trading days is substantial, though the stock is still trading 43% higher in 2012.
Nobody ever said that Apple would ascend in a straight line, but even bears have to be taken by surprise with the swift drop. Naturally no one can say when Apple will bounce back, but let's go over a few reasons why Apple will in fact return to its winning ways -- sooner rather than later.
1. Estimates continue to inch higher
It's a game that never gets old. Analysts lay out their profit targets. Outside of a single quarter six months ago, Apple blows through the estimates. Wall Street pros spend the next three months bumping their forecasts higher.
Just look at where we were three months ago. Analysts were expecting the iEverything behemoth to earn $34.95 a share in this fiscal year ending in September and $39.19 a share in fiscal 2013. Where are we today? Well, those same pros see Apple generating net income of $44.23 share this year and $50.64 a share next year.
Forget the fact that that in three months even the old fiscal 2013 target is too low for the current fiscal 2012 projection. We're looking at earnings estimates that have climbed 27% for fiscal 2012 and 29% for fiscal 2013. In short, the stock may have climbed 43% year-to-date, but the stock's multiples haven't expanded as severely.
2. The forward earnings multiples are too cheap to ignore
Let's stay on Wall Street's estimates. The changes are subtle if we look at weekly windows, but they're still happening. Just a week ago, analysts were looking for $44.03 a share in fiscal 2012 and $50.25 a share next year.
When you combine the nearly 1% increase in estimates over the same five trading days that have seen the stock shed nearly 9% of its value, interesting things begin to happen to Apple's valuation. The same company that was trading at more than 14 times this year's projected profitability, and nearly 13 times next year's forecast, is now fetching just 13 times this year's earnings and more than 11 times fiscal 2013's target.
Let's put this a different way: Apple went from fetching 13 times next year's earnings to 13 times this year's earnings. Or, better yet, did you even know that Apple's now going for just 11.4 times the forecast for its new fiscal year that begins in October?
3. The book price fixing scandal is overblown
Apple's stock turned lower after temporarily crossing the $600 billion market cap last week, but the downturn has gained momentum since the Department of Justice turned its attention to Apple and five publishers. Regulators are now investigating claims that collusion took place as Apple allegedly worked with major publishing houses to keep Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) from offering digital books at cutthroat prices.
It's easy to see why Barnes & Noble (NYS: BKS) took a hit on the news. It's easy to see why publishers have a lot to lose if Amazon is allowed to sell Kindle books as loss leaders, driving down the perceived value of books. How does this hurt Apple, especially when reading books on iPads and iPhones doesn't appear to be a very popular pastime?
4. Analysts are going the other way
You don't see Wall Street lowering its near-term price targets for Apple's shares. Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt initiated coverage after yesterday's downfall with a "Strong Buy" rating and a price target of $800.
When you tack on other analysts that are starting to entertain four-figure price targets on Apple in the long run, it's hard to interpret the past week of steady declines as anything other than a buying opportunity.
Apple will bounce back. Given Apple's fundamentals, a resumption of the tech giant's winning ways is inevitable.
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At the time this article was published Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Amazon.com. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Amazon.com. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing puts on Barnes & Noble. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
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