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Market Preview: Apple Takes a Breather

Stocks in this article: P AAPL NTRI ^GSPC ^DJI

Updated from 8:16 p.m. ET to include information on the after-hours trading session.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Once again, even the negative days in 2012 just aren't all that bad.

Whatever the reasons behind Monday's decline -- a lower growth target for China, some concern about the internals of the ISM nonmanufacturing index, rising worries about the impact of higher gasoline prices on the consumer -- what may be more important is that the selling was orderly and nominal.

That's befitting the baby bull market that's been gamboling around since early October, especially since the calendar turned and stocks began the consistent slow melt-up that's still holding sway.

Really, with earnings season over, this week is all about the February jobs report on Friday and the big launch event for Apple (AAPL) on Wednesday, which is expected to be the announcement of the iPad 3 and possibly even Apple TV.

Apple shares actually fell on Monday, breaking a seven-session winning streak and causing some mild consternation. The stock lost 2.2%, or $12.02, to close at $533.16 on volume of 28.9 million, nearly double the issue's trailing three-month daily churn of 14.6 million.

Given how far the stock has run though -- a 53.4% rise in the past year punctuated by a surge of 34.6% in 2012 -- there had to be a pause at some point. BMO Capital Markets put it this way in its morning note.

"Given that AAPL shares are up 40% over the past three months, including 20% in the past month, an increase of $145 billion and over $80 billion, respectively, we believe the stock could consolidate recent gains," said the firm, which has an outperform rating and a $590 price target on the stock. "However, we believe Apple's product cycle, with the iPhone and iPad, remains very strong, and that the specter of a dividend and/or buyback should support the stock."

As Apple's iconic status has been solidified over the past five years, product launches have progressively been less of a catalyst for the stock. Last March, when Apple unveiled the iPad 2, the stock rose less than 1% on launch day.

Meantime, TrimTabs, which has long been skeptical of the rally in equities, gave into the relentless optimism over the weekend, going to fully bullish (100% long) on U.S. stocks in its model portfolio from neutral (0% long). The firm remains highly critical of the massive quantitative easing programs undertaken by the world's central banks but couldn't stay on the sidelines any longer.

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