Apple Is Hated

 | Nov 12, 2013 | 7:50 AM EST
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How hated is Apple (AAPL), really?

This weekend we heard about how they are going to launch larger-screen phones and flexible phones, two well-liked characteristics of competitor Samsung's phones. Then we heard from Piper Jaffray, the endless defender of Apple, that it has a new in-home patent that could help them develop the living room. That, plus an incredible article about how Apple's solidifying a huge lead in Japan where sales are extraordinarily strong.

And what does the stock do?

Nothing. It is now back entirely to its underperforming ways.

I think this has gotten a little out of control. Just like there were two markets for the longest time --Apple up, rest of market to flat to down -- there's not Apple flat-to-down and market up. Doesn't even seem to matter what it does.

Which brings me to a remarkable conclusion: Apple's become hated. There is no other justification for this discount. Apple were could bid $35 billion for Twitter, a nice premium to the $25 billion valuation to which I actually think the stock would jump. I reiterate that even up here if Apple were to buy Netflix at $30 billion it would get the stock going.

Of course, that's the abominable phrase that Apple doesn't want to hear. They don't want to "get the stock going." But the company has to free itself from the shackles of financial engineering and a statement buy of a super-growth company would be just the thing that's wanted.

Instead, with these constant Carl Icahn updates about talking with Tim Cook, Apple's become the Transocean (RIG) of computing, nowhere anyone really wants to be except those who want don't care about buying or developing growth.

As much as I like how Icahn has galvanized managements to return cash, I think returning cash the way Icahn wants is a big mistake. It will do nothing for the longt erm. But sitting on cash isn't going to do anything either.

That's why, as much as I like Apple, unless it stops talking to Icahn and starts talking to bankers about an acquisition that gives them "social" the stock will be dead in the water until estimates come down so far that it can blow them away. And judging by the action -- we aren't there yet.

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