Consumer Electronics

Apple Short Interest Soars Again

The fourth quarter will make or break Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) near-term fortunes for many investors. Presumably, sales of the new iPhone 6s family should be buoyed by holiday shoppers. Some short sellers believe prospects are less than good. The short interest in Apple rose 53% in the period that ended November 30 to 108.4 million shares. That makes its shares the fifth most shorted of all companies traded on Nasdaq.

Apple’s shares have not moved ahead of December sales activity. Its stock has been flat over the past month.

The tech giant has slowed its live television plan. It continues to press sales of Apple TV and Apple Watch, although there is not much evidence either has been or will be a hit. Each operates in a competitive market. Unlike in the smartphone sector, Apple does not have market dominance in these two areas and has to fight for sales against a number of well-financed and well-branded companies, including Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Apple’s sales may suffer as consumers wait for the next generation of its products, which will include an iPhone 7 and a second version of its smartwatch. Current versions of the two items could be obsolete shortly after the holiday season, which makes them less attractive gifts.

Apple’s holiday retail success may be second in importance to its sales in China. In its most recently reported quarter, iPhone sales were $32.2 billion of Apple’s total revenue of $51.5 billion. Growth of iPhone revenue was 36% from the same quarter of last year. Greater China growth was much faster, up 99% to $12.5 billion. Apple cannot do well this quarter without a similar growth rate there. Holiday sales in the United States are not the only figure investors need to watch.

Short sellers are betting as much on China as more visible sales of the iPhone in the United States over the holidays.

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