Apple Can Profit by Being the Underdog

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL), once the outperformer in almost everyone's portfolio, is now the dog that everyone claims they saw coming.

When the stock approached its all-time high of $705.07 in September, there was hardly a credible analyst who didn't think Apple would be the first trillion-dollar company. But then came along a couple of product blunders, bad press on China workers and a few missed earnings reports, and the stock took a tumble, a hard tumble, shedding nearly 40%. Still, the company produced record profits.

Apple had formed, in chart-analysis terms, a head-and-shoulder pattern last year, with the neckline at $530. Once that neckline was compromised, hedge funds and institutional investors started the process of dissolution, causing price to grind lower. Apple stock was deemed toxic waste.

The slide continued for nearly six months, while the Apple faithful, and the loonies who are perpetually fully invested in Apple, were getting their hearts ripped out and their life savings depleted.

According to technical-analysis folklore, the head-and-shoulder pattern afflicting Apple had the potential to push down the stock 175 points. That would put the target for the pattern at 355. Whoa! And there were many Elliotticians that had a wave target of 390.

Well, it appears things are changing, as they always do. A capitulatory event has shaken Apple free.

Over the weekend, a horrific report came out of the eurozone about a bank-bailout plan employing Draconian tactics that boiled down to the European government's seizure of account-holder funds to pay for the bailout -- a frightful precedent that gave everyone the shivers.

As a result, the markets gapped down hard in overnight trading. When the European market opened, there was both confusion and disbelief of what had happened. The powers that be decided to defer a final decision on the controversial bailout plan, and so the markets rallied, right into the U.S. market open, recapturing much of what was lost.

So how did Apple fare? After all, over the past several months, Apple's stock has been bucking the trend of rising markets; until yesterday, when Apple broke free of its wedge and gained nearly 3%! Now that it has broken free, will Apple be able to recapture its former status?

Just to make things interesting, Samsung, Apple's biggest mobile competitor and generally a thorn in its side, released the Galaxy S 4 last week, its latest smartphone with lots of high-end features but low-end quality and construction. Samsung thinks it can beat Apple by turning up the dial on features and turning down the quality. It's already morphing into a classic battle, with clearly defined product philosophies.

So Apple has broken free of its chains but finds itself in the unusual position as the underdog. CEO Tim Cook hasn't shown the type of leadership we all hoped he might muster, but alas, he's no Steve Jobs. Design chief Jony Ives, maybe? One thing is for sure, Apple is still the best-run company on the planet, and being the underdog can only be a benefit.

-- Written by Ernie Varitimos, author of the Apple Investor blog.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Ernie Varitimos has a long history with Apple as an investor, trader and consumer of its technology. He started his career as a rocket scientist and has spent the past 25 years driving, controlling and influencing technology in the financial industry. Ernie is a former hedge fund manager and current futures trader.

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