Terrible News About Apple’s Stock is Only the Beginning


Things are going to get worse for Apple before they get better.

Apple’s stock is suffering. After officially entering correction territory, the iPhone maker’s shares fell again Tuesday and are now down about $20 from a record $135. And it’s worth noting that, because the company has the largest market value in the world, a bigger drop might bring the broader market down with it.

But a bigger decline in Apple’s AAPL, +0.66%  stock is just what we should expect, given extensive research into how bad news tends to get reflected. It’s a good bet that Apple’s price will fall even further as analysts gradually incorporate the bad news into their analyses and lower their target prices.

A reason for analysts’ typically slow reaction time is that forecasting is an inexact science, at best, and they never possess enough data to make more than an educated guess. If they were to react to every piece of news or rumor that is potentially significant, price targets would jump around almost daily. So they tend, instead, to be conservative, often waiting to change their forecasts.

Take the Apple Watch, for example, on whose success the company’s future in no small part rests. Yet Apple didn’t segregate Watch sales as a separate line item in its latest earnings report, so analysts can only guess how it’s really selling. Furthermore, it’s way too early to know whether the smart watch will eventually catch on with users.

Reaction time slows when news is bad because analysts don’t like to alienate company management, on whom they depend for information and access. That can be particularly true when a stock is as widely held as Apple, since analysts don’t want to upset their firms’ institutional clients who own large positions in the stock.

As a result, according to Michael Clement, an accounting professor at the University of Texas in Austin, the market tends to react more quickly to bad news than do the analysts themselves. Thus, analysts more often than not follow the market rather than lead it.

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