The Wall Street Journal:
Apple Inc. has cut its component orders for the iPhone 5 due to weaker-than-expected demand, people familiar with the situation said Monday, indicating sales of the latest smartphone haven’t been as strong as previously anticipated.
Apple’s orders for iPhone 5 screens for the January-March quarter, for example, have dropped to roughly half of what the company had previously planned to order, the people said.
The Cupertino, Calif., company has also cut orders for components other than screens, according to one of the people.
Apple notified the suppliers of the order cut last month, the people said.
(Don’t worry if you hit the paywall — that’s the only interesting part. The rest is promotion for Samsung.)
It’s certainly possible, but a few things about this are fishy.
The information being reported is only that component orders have been cut from their previous levels. “What the company had previously planned to order” and “due to weaker-than-expected demand” both sound like speculation based on the component-order cut.
A component-order cut big enough to be reported like this could be the result of a huge error in Tim Cook’s otherwise ruthlessly efficient supply-chain management for the flagship model of Apple’s most profitable product. That would indeed be big news, but it sounds unlikely given Cook’s track record. There are at least two other potential explanations: seasonal adjustments after the iPhone 5 launch and the holiday season, or preparation for a sooner-than-expected “iPhone 5S” launch, which has been rumored for the spring.
But the biggest reason this smells wrong to me is the timing. Apple’s stock has been depressed for a few months, and many analysts (and much common sense) suggests that it’s probably very underpriced considering Apple’s financials. This news has sent it down another 3% today alone, and it will probably fall further over the next few days.
But next week, Apple reports its earnings for the quarter that included the iPhone 5’s release and the holidays. Most reasonable predictions suggest that it’s going to be very good news. As with good quarterly-earnings reports in the past, the stock could shoot up, and anyone who bought a bunch of it recently at a steep discount could make a lot of money.
This vague, unsourced, mostly speculative article could truly be a sign of a serious misstep at Apple. Or it could be a highly profitable stock manipulation. If I had to guess, I’d bet on the latter, but we’ll have a better idea next Wednesday.
Disclosure: I own shares of Apple stock, and this is not investment advice. In fact, my track record with trading individual stocks has been mostly mediocre, so I’m not qualified whatsoever to tell anyone when to buy or sell them.