January 24th, 2013
A friend asked last night whether it might be time to jump on AAPL, now that it’s dropped so precipitously. I referred him back to a piece I’d written early last November when the stock was at 563 entitled “AAPL Gets a Cold, the Market Gets …..?” in which I said that AAPL was forming a perfect head-and-shoulders top reversal pattern and, if it held to completion then the stock could fall to 385.
At the time, a call that AAPL would fall to 385 looked bold. However, head-and-shoulder patterns are one of the most reliable chart patterns as are the mirror image of inverted head-and-shoulders as bottom reversal patterns (click on image to enlarge).
AAPL gapped down 61 points, or 12%. My friend asked three questions: Why didn’t you sell short when you had confidence in the chart? Should I sell short now? Or should I buy now since it’s dropped so much already? Typical questions that we ask every day about every stock currently in our Model Portfolio or stocks that we are looking to buy.
The first two question can be answered as a matter of general policy: I don’t short stocks. I’ve tried it over the years and have lost money nearly each time. Stocks can double if you hold them long enough in good market conditions but the odds of them falling 50% is rare. We believe that the market controls 50% of a stocks action, industry 30% and factors specific to the individual stock only 20%. Furthermore, based on my study of the stock market over the past 50 years, I know that the market increases 70% of the time. So the odds are against you 70% of the time when you bet a stock will decline by selling it short. You have to have close to 100% certainty that a stock will decline before taking on such long odds and, because I trade stocks based on my assessment of supply and demand dynamics rather than fundamentals, I never have that level of certainty.
The answer as to whether AAPL is a buy today is also rather easy and summed up in the Wall Street saying: “Never try to catch a falling knife”. Right now, AAPL is clearly a falling knife. Someday, somewhere, it will hit the ground; it’s just that we don’t know where. When it does, the tide of momentum will have to reverse. AAPL fell because almost every large institutional investor had AAPL as one of their major holdings. There just wasn’t anyone in the market to sustain the demand and keep the price rising. The balance of power flipped from demand-driven momentum to momentum propelled by supply.
As the chart above indicates, it took eight or nine months for momentum to turn from demand to supply; it will take an extended period of time for it to flip back from supply to demand. Individual investors don’t have to be the first ones to climb on that train since we have no way of knowing when it will change direction. What we do know is that there will be plenty of time for the individual investor to climb onto a moving train that has as large capitalization as AAPL.
My earlier guess was that the “roundhouse” will be in the 350-400 range. No need to panic and buy now.