Bizarre Apple Ripples

 | Dec 17, 2012 | 7:40 AM EST
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Have you noticed the bizarre moves in tech lately? Apple (AAPL) has become among the most hated stocks in the universe -- something to be exacerbated Monday, I am sure by Citigroup's merciless downgraded call from buy to hold. So now, people are fleeing not just Apple but all of the Apple plays. The plunge, for example, in Cirrus (CRUS), the Apple sound play, is hideous and seems to be accelerating. Qualcomm (QCOM) is now swooning. We own Broadcom (BRCM) for, and it's become a tough hold, even though the company recently guided up and is not dependent upon Apple as so many semiconductor companies are.

But technology represents a huge chunk of the S&P 500, so you can't just overlook it if you are a portfolio manager. You have to take that Apple money, and that Apple-related money, and put it elsewhere in the sector.

Now, this is no mean feat. First you have to deal with the fact that Apple's so-called "disappointing" numbers would be nirvana for just about every other player, at least in the personal-computer area. Buying Microsoft (MSFT) here just seems like a lesson in taking a beating. Intel (INTC) is no different. We heard from Dell (DELL) last week and there's nothing worth owning there, despite Goldman Sachs' upgrade from sell to buy last week. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is a disaster and I don't think it is done going down. Western Digital (WDC) and Seagate (STX), two obvious suppliers, are dirt cheap -- but, unless they go private, they are just decent dividend plays, particularly Seagate with its 5.5% payout.

The obviousness of the declines in PC land sends most investors looking elsewhere.

So where have they been going? First, they have sought to find the stocks that have still beaten expectations handily. Unfortunately, that's a very small universe. There's (CRM) and most recently there's Adobe (ADBE). EBay (EBAY) is quasi-technology, and that's worked well.

There are also two prospective earnings reports that could produce some highlight names as proxies for tech -- notably, Oracle (ORCL) and Accenture (ACN), both of which are set to report this week. I expect Oracle to be fine, although I worry that so many think it will to be much better than fine. As for Accenture, I like it and think it can surprise to the upside once again. Both of these are similar to IBM (IBM), with delicious recurring revenue from long-term contracts.

What else? This weekend we learned that Cisco (CSCO) could be selling its Linksys home-router business, something you might know as that little blue box attached to your cable wire. I never understood this acquisition to begin with, and I think that the disposal will be well-received.

That desire to own Cisco has spread to a host of networking stocks. That includes competitors Juniper (JNPR) and Ciena (CTLE), even as they have been missing quarters, as well as Xilinx (XLNX), a chip supplier.

Sure enough, other more-industrial chip companies have been doing well, too, including Texas Instruments (TXN), and Cypress (CY), which is more of a play on the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle and other non-Apple devices and looks incredibly attractive to me. So does Analog Devices (ADI).

The distributor plays look cheap, notably Arrow (ARW) and Avnet (AVT), and those who think Europe is turning can even look at Tech Data (TECD).

Finally, there's big data, and there I like EMC (EMC) and Akamai (AKAM) for storage and for streaming.

What's funny is that all of these non-Apple plays do not have anywhere near the possibility of besting Apple for product or even earnings momentum. But it doesn't matter. They are chits in the tech game, and right now those chits have more value than Apple and all of the players on its stage.

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