Fri11282014

Business & Real Estate

Stocks slump after record high

After hitting a record high Jan. 15, the stock market headed lower on the heels of disappointing earnings reports from numerous corporations, several banks falling short of analysts’ expectations and a Goldman Sachs warning about rising stock market valuations.

It’s hard to determine what investors are doing with their stocks, because the advance-decline lines reflect a market moving sideways in 2014.

The weak start in the new year has raised concerns in some quarters about the market’s failure to hold the day’s results during the strong time of year – the volatility is worrisome. A few disappointing quarterly reports could lead to serious selling of individual portfolios.

Not many investors are panicking, but the slow start in January is prompting questions about whether this is the beginning of a long-awaited 10 percent correction, which hasn’t occurred since summer 2011.

According to an investment strategist at R.W. Baird & Co., “The loss of momentum in the opening weeks of 2014 can be explained by the fact that stocks entered January overbought and overbelieved, and, therefore, vulnerable to a changing environment.”

Even with the ups and downs, it’s the stock market’s best year since 1997, and investors may wonder which way to go in the future.

Money magazine recommended, “In 2014, think cash,” but not all analysts agree. The outlook for the stock market is positive and supported by moderately improving economic conditions and corporate earnings growth.

The best approach is to maintain a long-term view and consider adding stocks to your portfolio if they are appropriate to your mix of investments. The beginning of the year is the ideal time to review your long-term investment goals.

A major player on the Town Crier “50” made news last week.

Apple Inc. (AAPL; $554.25) continues to gain sales in the enterprise market. The company is projected to take 11 percent of global spending by governments and business on computers and tablets by 2015. Research firm Forrester Research reported that the number is up from 8 percent in 2012 and 1 percent in 2009 but does not include iPhone sales.

China Mobile revealed that the iPhone preorders that began Dec. 25 have topped 1.2 million for the 5c and 5s models.

“This is a watershed day for Apple,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a joint interview with China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua. “I’m so honored to be doing business with Chairman Xi and China Mobile.”

Apple built a base of support during the course of 2013 and is still trending positive. Several analysts project the stock to reach $600 a share, perhaps even $630, noting that the 50-day moving average exceeds the 200-day moving average.

For the first quarter of 2014, Apple provided guidance of revenue between $55 billion and $58 billion, a gross margin between 36.5 and 37.5 percent and expenses between $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion.

Investors are looking for a new product from Apple in 2014. Without a new product, the stock price will drop, as it has in previous years.

Among the 49 brokers touting Apple stock, most deem it a strong buy or a buy, with only one recommending a sell. The stock’s high target price is $777, with a low of $270.

Clyde Noel is a Los Altos Hills resident and longtime investor in stocks.

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