Shares sold short in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) dropped 13.7 million in the period that ended June 30. The figure shrank to 41.9 million shares, so the drop off was 25%.
The reduction in short interest coincided with a period when Apple’s shares have traded flat to down. For the past 30 days, they are flat at $145. However, over a slightly longer term, Apple’s shares have dropped from their all-time high. Shares traded at over $156 in mid-May.
Skepticism in some quarters about Apple’s future has grown as the release of the iPhone 8 gets closer. There have been rumors that the phone will be released last because of hardware glitches. Several analysts have capped their price targets on Apple, while others have dropped their ratings. Others anxious about Apple’s future believe the change from the iPhone 7 to iPhone 8 features will not be enough to spur record sales.
Apple also has been pegged as a one trick pony that has not diversified beyond its core businesses as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have done. The best example among these is Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which is currently a leader in e-commerce, streaming media and cloud computing. Its buyout of Whole Foods will move it more deeply into the huge grocery retail market. By contrast, the iPhone dominates Apple’s revenue while new products like the Apple Watch have barely moved the sales needle. New data from Gartner shows that the Mac’s global market share has stalled.
Apple’s value also has been undermined by the perception that all big U.S.-based tech companies have share prices that have outpaced their earnings. If that is true, only modest bits of bad news could reverse huge run-ups in stock value over the past year.
Perhaps the reason short sellers have dropped their positions is that while Apple has risks associated with its business plan, it remains one of the two dominant companies in the massive and profitable smartphone market, the other being Samsung. If the iPhone 8 is a huge hit, Apple’s stock likely will retrace toward its all-time high, and perhaps higher. Being a short under those circumstances would be costly.