It goes up quietly, almost stealthily, pretty much every single week. It's not talked about much at all these days, including today.
But it's a big underpinning of this market and we must never forget that. I am talking about Apple (AAPL). We may focus on the gyrations of Alibaba (BABA) and its sidekick Yahoo! (YHOO). We may marvel at the possibilities for Twitter (TWTR) if only management understood the true gem that it has. We may be fascinated by how Macy's (M) rallied despite a cut in its forecast.
Nevertheless, Apple is the leader, and that in itself is amazing, given everything we ever thought possible about any one particular stock in this market. Here you have the largest stock in the world -- $651 billion market cap -- and the darned thing is up an astounding 38.5% for the year. We expect that from the stock of a company that's been taken over. Or maybe a junior growth stock. Or a biotech with a red-hot product. But from the biggest company in the world? Who would believe it?
Now I want to deal for a moment with all the noise stocks, to get a line on them for you. First up is Alibaba. Here's a stock that ran up into Singles' Day, which we know is Christmas, Hanukah, Valentine's Day and your birthday all rolled into one. No stock could maintain the momentum this one exhibited going into the holiday, and it caused a rough reversal that spooked people and caused a lot of newbies who chased it up to get burned badly. This stock -- which is valued more cheaply than Facebook (FB), however, and bears no resemblance to the ridiculous price of Amazon (AMZN) -- bounced right back today. How could it not? Singles Day saw an acceleration in revenues above current numbers, which just makes the claque clap louder.
We keep hearing about angry shareholders of Yahoo! and how some are agitating to have Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL (AOL), merge with Yahoo! and run the joint giving, Marissa "Do Nothing" Mayer the boot.
OK, let's deal with the stupidity of that head on. Yahoo! under Mayer is up 24% for the year. AOL's stock is actually off about a percent. Analogize to the NFL. You want to dump the coach of the league-leading Arizona Cardinals for the coach of the Oakland Raiders? You want to sack Bill Bellichek for Rex Ryan? Be my guest. Now I hear endlessly that all Mayer has done right is to be able to beg off selling 120 million shares of Alibaba on the IPO, a deal lined up by a previous CEO. She would have left more than $6 billion on the table. People don't want to credit her with that but let's understand that had she just let things slide when she got in and not smoothed over rustled feathers with the owners of Alibaba, the company would have lost out on the easiest money, perhaps to make the hardest money, in some acquisition that may or may not have panned out.
I applaud Mayer for three reasons. One, she didn't double down on her existing advertising business as it's no longer a sure-fire way to make money. Two, she husbanded lots of cash for a better moment where valuations have come down, and they have, allowing her to buy BrightRoll, a video ad service for $640 million. This could end up being a smart acquisition simply because video is the only place on the Web where advertising dollars haven't plummeted. Finally, she's been an amazing buyer of her stock, again something that was a much better bet than throwing more money on disparate business lines.
She's now in a position where she can put together an online yellow pages by buying Gannett's (GCI) on-line business, snapping up Yelp (YELP), devouring GrubHub (GRUB), getting into HomeAway (AWAY), purchasing TripAdvisor (TRIP) and snaring Zillow (Z). Yes, she can do all of those things and at fabulous prices versus just a few months ago. I am banking on Mayer, who is now free to reinvent the company.
Twitter put on a grand show today at its analyst meeting, revealing good metrics, potentially saving CEO Dick Costolo's job -- at least for now. I remain convinced that the opportunity is bigger than management realizes, but for one brief day, they seemed to have a glimpse of how to monetize the 500 million people who come to Twitter each month. I think the stock's on the rebound.
Macy's is all about bankability, namely the bankable nature of CEO Terry Lundgren, one of the few people able to cut a forecast and still have his stock soar. That's because we've come to expect conservative guidance from the company and then a solid beat, which his just what happened this morning. Lundgren has the Midas touch. I spoke earlier today to Kip Tindell, the founder and CEO of The Container Store (TCS), who put up similar numbers recently and saw his stock plummet 25%. It's all in the expectation/presentation game.
Which brings me back to Apple.
Most of the stocks that I follow that have tremendous moves like this are championed all the way. Yet I haven't heard a peep out of most of the loudest Apple analysts because they don't have much to say. That's because all they want you to do is to trade Apple. Trade it on the "dud" of a wearable that, by the way, no one credible has even seen. Trade it on Apple Pay, which was supposed to be a bust until we learned that almost every major bank and the two big credit card companies support it, all of which was secret by the way. Trade it on iPhone 6 expectations. Trade it on weak iPad numbers -- numbers so weak that any other computer company would kill for them. Trade it on lagging iTunes sales. Trade it on Apple TV's lack of promise or vision or whatever.
The trick to Apple was and is always the same: Don't trade it, own it. When you think that Apple makes the most expensive version of each of its iterations -- whether they are phones, personal computers or tablets -- and they sell in the millions, you know exactly how unique the company is. It's also a testament to how much money there really is out there that people lined up all over the world to buy the new products. And pretty much every phone company has to kowtow to Apple's terms, as well as, ultimately, the retailers when it comes to Apple Pay.
So fuss over Alibaba's trading. Bash Marisa Mayer and her amazing performance at Yahoo! for the lagging AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. Tweet your love for Twitter, even with its current management team holding down values. Marvel over how Macy's Terry Lundgren only knows how to make you money. I'll take Tim Cook and his "slow and steady wins the race" to the elusive trillion dollars in market cap any day of the week.