Short interest in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) fell 16.4% in the two-week reporting period ended February 29. Some 47.44 million Apple shares were short, about 0.9% of the company’s float. Days to cover was one, at average daily volume of about 49 million shares traded. The total marks a 12-month low in Apple short interest.
Since the beginning of the year, short interest in Apple has dropped by 28% to around 66 million shares, after rising to a high of more than 108 million at the end of November 2015.
Is the market telling us that Apple stock was overvalued at its 12-month high of $134.54 posted late last April? From that date through February 29, the stock price has dropped by 30%.
Or is the market telling us that Apple shares have touched a bottom? The stock posted its 52-week low on August 24, when the Dow lost nearly 600 points.
Apple may have hit a bump in the road. Sales of the iPhone are not growing at the torrid pace investors were used to, and tablet sales have been slowed even more by the large-screen phones (phablets).
Total smartphone sales in China fell 4% in the fourth quarter, from 123 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 117.9 million units in the 2015 quarter. Apple was able to grow its fourth-quarter market share in China to 13.1% with sales of 15.5 million iPhones, up from 13.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2014.
That’s good but not great, and especially not great considering that Apple now trails both Xiaomi and Huawei in China sales. Xiaomi sold 67.5 million phones in China in 2015, Huawei sold 62.2 million and Apple sold 49.5 million.
Global tablet shipments fell 12.2% year over year in 2015 to 168.5 million units, the first time that year-over-year shipments have declined at a double-digit pace. Apple’s 2015 market share was the highest of any manufacturer, 29.4%, but that was down from the company’s 34.0% share in 2014.
As mobile device sales growth slows, investors have become wary of Apple’s ability to grow the market and capture a bigger piece of a bigger market. That takes the share price down and cools the interest of short sellers.
The consensus price target on the stock is $135.55, and the low target is $102.00. Apple shares closed at $101.12 on Wednesday, in a 52-week range of $92.00 to $134.54. If this is not the bottom, investors seem to believe that the bottom is nearby.