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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Apple investors face $340 billion hole as woes mount

Apple iPhone 15 smartphones are shown on sale at the company’s Fifth Avenue store in New York on Sept. 22.  (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)
By Ryan Vlastelica Bloomberg

A drumbeat of bad news for Apple Inc. is casting doubt on the argument that the world’s most valuable company is immune to risks related to economic turbulence.

Tepid sales in China for its new iPhone models have fueled concerns about Apple’s ability to justify its pricey valuation and avoid a streak of four consecutive quarters of falling revenue – which would be its worst run since 2001.

That’s as the company grapples with political tensions with China and overheating devices, while KeyBanc this month became the latest firm to downgrade the stock.

Apple’s lack of growth and the high cost of its stock is creating a disconnect that’s hard to ignore, according to James Abate, chief investment officer at Centre Asset Management.

“Apple has some of the weakest growth among the megacaps, but the stock hasn’t de-rated to multiples it saw in previous periods when it wasn’t growing,” he said in an interview.

Abate believes that investors should hedge against Apple’s valuation risk through put options, due to its “systemic” importance to the stock market.

Apple rose 0.3% on Thursday, a move that follows four straight negative sessions.

Shares have dropped more than 10% since the end of July, compared with a decline of 4.8% for the Nasdaq 100 Index over that period.

The slump has erased more than $330 billion in market value, though Apple remains the biggest component of the S&P 500 Index, accounting for more than 7.1% of the index weight.

That influence in markets makes it difficult for equity investors to avoid, but other megacaps may offer more enticing growth prospects and trade at more reasonable multiples.

“You can make a compelling fundamental case for Amazon as a margin expansion story, for Microsoft and Nvidia as part of the AI craze, or for Alphabet and Meta weathering a slowdown in consumer advertising, but Apple has demonstrated no revenue growth for some time,” Abate said.

“It isn’t like Cisco in 1999, about to fall off a cliff, but if we got a real dislocation in markets, the brunt would probably fall on stocks like Apple.”

The company will report its fourth-quarter results in early November.