From time to time I write about the difficulty of picking tops and bottoms as prices go through their inevitable fluctuations in the financial markets. In 2012, I used Apple Computer as my example. At the time is was around $500 per share and I inferred that it might well go higher, but to be careful about assuming a move to $1,000 was imminent.
My guesses are no better than anyone else’s, but it turns out that Apple did move to just north of $700 per share, but since has dropped over 40 percent in price. As usual, there were more people loving Apple at $700 than do now at about $400. Obviously for a given level of sales and earnings, Apple is a much better buy today than it was 6 months ago, but fears of Apple’s dominance fading are causing investors to re-think the value of the company and many are selling their shares.
The precious metal that has allured man and woman for hundreds of years, gold, has also seemingly had a change of fortunes, falling more than 25 percent in price from the peak in late 2011 and dropping almost 10 percent in one day a couple weeks ago. Like Apple Computer, gold seems to have had more fans at higher prices, and is now a bit less loved at around $1,400 per ounce than it was at over $1,800.
There are some great lessons and comparisons in analyzing these two fallen angels. The first is to recognize they are two different vehicles. As a commodity, gold does not generate profits like Apple does as a business. Gold does not pay a dividend like Apple and many other companies do. Gold’s price is purely a product of supply and demand, but it cannot inherently grow like a business can.
Apple’s dividend yield of 2.7 percent is higher than the current yield of a 10-year treasury bond of about 1.7 percent, and there are rumors that Apple will soon boost its dividend because of its amazing and growing stockpile of cash – more than $100 billion. So at least there is some income generated while you wait for appreciation of value to occur.
I have no idea which will be the better investment in the next year or two. Fears of a slowdown in Apple’s growth rate may be valid, but the company is, in fact, still growing. So the decision, if you were inclined to buy while these investments are down in price, should be based on whether you want to be an owner of a business (as a passive shareholder), or own a commodity that might benefit from continued stress in the world’s economic system.
My intuition (guess) is that neither of these potential investments will do a lot in the next few months as fallen angels tend to languish for a while. It is also possible that each of these could go lower in price before turning back up.
Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing. Visit www.breitercapital.com.