On Apple's earnings call Tuesday night, CEO Timothy D. Cook said the turmoil in China could "create some speed bumps in the near term." Although Apple's revenue from China was still spectacular during the latest quarter, the growth is slowing.Cook, however, told investors not to worry. There will be a limited impact, he explained, because relatively few Chinese own stocks.
"Nothing that's happened has changed our fundamental view that China will be Apple's largest market at some point in the future," Cook said.
Apple is not alone in wondering just how damaging China's stock selloff will be on sales. China is the world's biggest consumer market, with average Chinese eagerly snapping up iPhones as well as cars made by major American brands such as Ford (F - Get Report) and General Motors (GM - Get Report).
TheStreet's Jim Cramer noted as much in a commentary published Wednesday on Real Money:
"The rest of the world isn't growing fast enough to make up for what are now perceived to be slowing iPhone sales, and China was supposed to take up the slack, and it didn't. In some ways, this is no different from what we heard from United Technologies (UTX - Get Report) and Otis Elevator Tuesday or from companies that export coal or iron ore. It is no different from the numbers we have seen out of the auto companies that had been banking so much on Chinese growth."
Ford and GM declined to comment, but auto dealers in China have already been hit, said Charles Salvador, director of investment solutions with Z-Ben Advisors in Shanghai.
"We may see continued decline in purchases of large ticket items," Salvador said. "Will consumption be affected? Yes, I do believe to some extent."
Still, some analysts agree with Cook that any slowdown will be relatively short-term.
"Consumption sentiment probably would get hurt due to the market fall," Vincent Chan, Credit Suisse's head of China research, said in a July 9 note. "But given consumption had not been boosted at all during the market rally ... (the) impact on consumption should not last for too long."
Of course, a lapse in consumer spending would not hurt just U.S. brands. China is hoping consumer spending will be the major growth engine for the economy, replacing industrial and infrastructure projects.
Private spending had already declined from 47% of the economy in 2000 into the 30-plus percent range in 2013, the World Bank says. Beijing wants to increase that share as an alternative to economic reliance on manufacturing and public-infrastructure construction, sources that it considers less sustainable.
China's economic expansion has slowed since 2011 from an average of 10% a year to about 7% currently. Any other country -- including the U.S. -- would love to have a 7% growth rate. But China and the many global companies that do business there have become so dependent on growth that any slowdown causes worry.