You can say that about most stocks. No doubt. The timing of your buys and sells dictates how much of a time period's gain or loss you realize. If you bought and sold at the right times, you could have made significant profits on even a beaten-down name such as Pandora (P) as it got whacked around for myriad reasons, including Apple radio rumors.
So a year-to-date gain or loss doesn't say much about individual positions.
In Apple's case, the stock may be up 26% year to date, but it's down 9% over the last month, 26% over the last three months and 11% over the last six months.If you bought at the beginning of the year, you're up 26%. If you bought in middle or end of September, you're down by that much. However, if you bought at the beginning of the year and sold at the top in September ($705.07), you banked a whopping 71% profit. Sometimes you need to see the numbers to put a stock, particularly a closely followed and volatile one like AAPL, in the proper context. For some longs who bought in 2012, this has been an amazing year. For others, not so much. And that's really the biggest stock market-related tragedy of 2012. It's tragic because AAPL crashes and -- the media loves saying this -- "enters bear market territory" from time to time for all the wrong reasons. It's the perfect example of the emotional inanity that rules the stock market. That makes it a place people fear. And that's too bad because, even in this circus, there's money to be made in equities. In fact, all else being equal, there's no better place to park your cash if you have discipline and a long-term time horizon. AAPL should be the stock that you could have held throughout 2012 and never worried about. If you did hold, you made money. Yes, that's true. But many investors certainly experienced anxiety as this thing bounced around.