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Apple mauled by bears again

December 5, 2012: 4:07 PM ET
apple-store-monster

Apple customers are still loyal and rabid. But investors are a different breed.

Just when you thought it was safe to wade back into Apple (AAPL) stock again ... boom! You're attacked by bears!

Shares of Apple fell more than 6% Wednesday, pushing the stock back into official bear market territory. Apple is now down nearly 24% from its all-time high. Trading at just below $540, shares have pulled back sharply in the past two days. As recently as Monday, it looked like the worst might be over for Apple. The stock hit an intra-day high of $594.59 and appeared to be heading back towards $600 -- a price it hasn't traded above since November 1.

applestock1205

So what happened today? There isn't any hard news just yet ... but there is a lot of chatter about firms raising margin requirements on Apple stock. If true, that could partly explain the wave of selling. And traders on StockTwits were quick to dive into what that might mean for Apple.

bclund: FUN FACT: When "buy the dip" finally fails in $AAPL it will take a large number of retail trader's accounts down with it.

ppearlman: answering question w/ question: why would they raise margin requirements in $AAPL? well how long is the freaking universe in the name?

Very good points. One of the problems with Apple is that it had been loved (and owned) by just about everybody. Heck, some 4th graders were even piling into the stock.

So just as investors stampeded into Apple, they may be stampeding out .. even if it's for purely technical reasons. Fortune Apple 2.0 blogger Phil Elmer DeWitt also suggested that investors may be disappointed by the fact that Apple hasn't parted with some of its cash via a special dividend. I argued in yesterday's Buzz that it would be a big mistake for Apple and other techs to join the one-time payout craze that's sweeping the markets due to fiscal cliff dividend tax hike fears.

The sell-off may not just have been about the margin requirement talk though. Some people cited a report from tech research firm IDC that predicted Apple could lose market share in tablets to devices running on Google's (GOOG) Android operating system as well as Microsoft's (MSFT) new Windows 8 OS.

Another trader pointed out that Digitimes. a well-respected industry publication, was reporting slower demand in the first part of next year.

firstadopter: $AAPL is weak on this article saying component orders may be down 20%+ q/q into Q1-2013 http://t.co/klT3QyqP

That makes sense ... but it should not be that surprising.  Sales of gadgets often are less robust after the holidays. Add in the fact that most Apple enthusiasts have already probably purchased iPhone 5s and iPad minis and it is understandable that the company's revenue and earnings would slow from the calendar of fourth quarter.

But some Apple bulls (yes, they still exist) were using gallows humor to console themselves as the stock fell.

MarketPlunger: Why the hell did I tattoo $AAPL 700 on my forehead?"

howardlindzon at this pace by noon, $AAPL will be at $390... woot (honey, sell the beachhouse and put my ipad mini on ebay)

Ha! Having been to Howard's home base of Coronado lately, I implore you to not get rid of the property on the ocean.

Seriously, I am usually loathe to put price targets on anything. I'm a journalist not a professional investor or analyst. But I think it's telling that Apple didn't fall below $500 when the worst of the sell-off hit the stock a few weeks ago. Apple dipped to $505.75.

Sooner or later, longer-term investors are going to have to look at Apple and remember that it's an attractively valued stock with gobs of cash and no debt that has a proven track record of innovation and is expected to keep reporting solid increases in earnings for the next few years. I'd be surprised if $705.07 turns out to be the all-time high for Apple forever.

StockTwits' own investing guru summed it up best.

ivanhoff: $BAC at 52wk highs while $AAPL is practicing scuba diving. The Mayans were right

Hilarious. I noted the absurdity of Bank of America (BAC) and other banks rallying on Citi's (C) layoff news in today's Buzz video.

But if Ivanhoff is right, I guess we know that Apple's stock will stop falling on December 21. Then again, we might all have bigger problems to worry about than the stock market.

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Paul Lamonica
Paul R. La Monica
Assistant Managing Editor, CNNMoney

Paul R. La Monica is an assistant managing editor at CNNMoney. He is the author of the site's daily column, The Buzz, and also tweets throughout the day about the markets and economy @LaMonicaBuzz. La Monica also oversees the site's economic, markets and technology coverage.

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