After climbing to more than $700 eight months ago, Apple's shares continued their steep decline on Wednesday. After falling below $400 for the first time since 2011, the shares closed at $402.80, down $23.44, or 5.5 percent.
This has been a slow-motion stock rout as many Wall Streeters have soured on Apple, reducing forecasts for the company while adopting a decidedly negative opinion about its future prospects. The trigger for today's sell-off was Cirrus Logic, which supplies analog and audio chips to Apple. The company issued a disappointing quarterly forecast, which got interpreted as a bad sign for Apple. It could be that competition from Samsung and others is eating into Apple's popularity, and depressing sales of the iPhone. It also could be that Cirrus Logic, and Hon Hai Precision Industry (also known as Foxconn), which manufactures Apple devices, are waiting for Apple to gear up to manufacture tens of millions of next-generation iPhones, iPads, and iWatches.
It's likely that Apple's high gross margins won't be sustainable, but the company still outpaces competitors when it comes to profit per device. The immediate problem for Apple is that it hasn't introduced new products this year. The company never comments about new products it's developing -- not wanting to give customers who don't follow Apple rumors a reason to wait -- and that studied silence works against it in this environment in which the competition is charging forward.
Some customers, as well as investors, may be tired of waiting for Apple to deliver something new. The Android competition certainly is delivering appealing devices, and as mobile computing matures, the expectation is that the cadence and variety of products increase and pricing decreases.
In a research note, Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope concluded that Apple's most recent product cycle failed to generated the expected increase in market share and new user growth. Now he believes Apple will have a tough time hitting consensus expectations in the March and June quarters.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek predicted that the follow-on to the iPhone 5 and a rumored low-cost iPhone would most likely be delayed, and that an iPhone 6 probably wouldn't launch until 2014. New iPads may not show up until the fall.
It might be the summer or the fall -- or both -- when Apple reveals what's in its secret pipeline. But whatever is on tap, the new product -- or products -- better live up to the high expectations set by the company and its supporters. As Apple CEO Tim Cook has said, "The only thing we'll never do is make a crappy product. That's the only religion that we have. We must do something bold, something ambitious, something great for the customers, and we sweat all of the details."
Apple's religion and the religion of Wall Street -- money -- can get back in sync, but not until the bold, ambitious products surface.
Apple will report its fiscal second-quarter earnings next week, on April 23.