Pricey Apple iPhone X Puts Into Perspective Why I Picked Up Apple Puts

 | Sep 13, 2017 | 10:30 AM EDT
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Stock quotes in this article:

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"I gotta feeling (ooooo hoooo) that tonight's gonna be a good night

That tonight's gonna be a good night

That tonight's gonna be a good, good night... 

Go out and smash it (smash it)

Like Oh My God (like Oh My God)

Jump off that sofa (c'mon)

Let's get get off...

Fill up my cup (drink)

Mazel Tov (l'chaim)

Look at her dancing (move it, move it)

Just take it off... 

Let's paint the town (paint the town)

We'll shut it down (shut it down)

Let's burn the roof

And then we'll do it again."

--Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling"

Yesterday was quite a day for the Cleveland Indians, who won their 20th straight game to match the American League record for most consecutive wins, and for two retailers, Dillard's Inc. (DDS) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) , which were buoyed by the growing possibility of Nordstrom making a deal with private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners to go private.

* With 89 wins, the Cleveland Indians now lead the American League Central Division by 13.5 games over the Minnesota Twins.

* And Dillard's and Nordstrom each registered solid gains -- Dillard's up more than $4 a share and Nordstrom up nearly $3 -- on reports that Nordstrom is taking steps to go private.

However, for Apple Inc. (AAPL) and its iPhone X launch, it was not quite as exciting. The shares slipped by more than $1 after making an all-time high in an initial knee-jerk response to the iPhone X product launch, the introduction of the Series 3 watch that will support cellular connectivity, and the 4K Apple TV. (Apple is a part of Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust.)

Apple continues to deliver an expensive smartphone relative to its peers, with many features that are already available from its competition and most of which were anticipated, including face recognition, a full-screen interface and no home button.

The only exception to reality versus anticipation was the later-than-expected availability, which is toward the end of the year (orders will be accepted on Oct. 27 and deliveries are slated for Nov. 3). As a result, analysts could take 3 million to 4 million iPhones out of their December quarter projections and reduce full-year 2018 estimates by about $0.40 a share.

However, the new Apple phone will provide an animated poop emoji so you can talk crap to your friends.

The starting price for the 64GB model of the iPhone X is $999 and $1,149 for the 256GB model. The Apple smartphone continues to be a high-priced aspirational product accompanied by a remarkably effective marketing effort that is stretching its status symbol appeal. However, I see little incremental to the latest product offerings, leaving room for disappointment relative to optimistic expectations. (It is why I initiated an Apple put position yesterday morning and added to that position when the stock was up $2 early in the afternoon).

The expectations of an Apple replacement super-cycle accompanied by higher unit volumes and much higher average selling prices, leading to expectations of a "hockey stick" of earnings growth in the coming fiscal year coupled with a general confidence in sustainable growth from there, have spurred a rise of more than 50% in Apple's one-year forward price/earnings multiple in the last 1 1/2 years.

I clearly have underestimated the strength of and the confidence in the Apple franchise over the last year. Recognition of this has led me to maintain more of a trading-oriented short position, whereas years ago I had more of an investment short position, which proved successful. Nevertheless, I continue to believe that these aggressive "going forward" expectations for Apple and the company's current valuation remain too ambitious.

Bottom Line

Yesterday was a good day, indeed ... for many of us.

(This commentary originally appeared on Real Money Pro at 8:34 a.m. ET on Sept. 13. Click here to learn about this dynamic market information service for active traders.) 

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