Need to Know: The Apple ‘X’ factor that could deliver new year stress for investors

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Welcome back from the Christmas weekend.

A shortened week of trading could be a quiet one for investors, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely dead out there. Even if stocks may be ready to coast into the new year, bitcoin looks primed to keep things spiced up for investors this week (see our chart of the day below).

The tech sector also has some potential to keep the week from getting too dull. But first, a question: How many of you lucky folks got an iPhoneX under the tree?

Apple shares are down about 1.9% in premarket action. Sure, volume is thin, but it’s notable given this is a fairly dead day for markets overall. It seems there’s some fresh rumbling about weaking demand for the iPhone X.

And that brings us to our call of the day from Sinolink Securities Co. analyst Zhang Bin, who has predicted that a circa $1,000 price tag on the iPhone X may cut into first-quarter demand. His research, cited in a Bloomberg report on Monday, said handset shipments of Apple’s newest phone could be as much as 10 million less than he expected for the first quarter, to as low as 35 million units.

Apple investors may also be taking a nervous glance at a Christmas Day report in a Taiwan newspaper, the Economic News Daily, which may have spooked some Apple suppliers. Sources told the newspaper (see a Google translation of that article) that supplier Hon Hai has frozen some hiring at one factory and Taiwan Semiconductor 2317, -0.98% was told by Apple to slow down on production of some processors for the phone. Both shares were under pressure Tuesday, with Hon Hai 2330, -1.09% also taking a Monday hit.

Apple hasn’t exactly had an easy time lately, with some rather unwelcome publicity via the whole old iPhone slowdown controversy. It also had a rare downgrade this month.

Still, the company remains a longtime investor favorite and has rewarded the faithful this year with a 51% gain so far. Notably, that’s a step or two behind Netflix NFLX, +0.70%  and Amazon AMZN, -0.54%  . Barron’s over the weekend had a bullish Apple cover, saying a peak for shares isn’t close and the iPhone X and service revenue may help carry it higher.

See: Shut up about Barron’s cover ‘kiss of death’ for Apple, says Josh Brown

Apple’s next earnings update is January 30, and that may put some of the rumors to rest, or it just could mark the start of some profit-taking for tech stocks.

Key market gauges

It’s looking like a slightly sluggish return to action, S&P ESH8, -0.04%  futures are flat. DJIA YMH8, -0.17% and Nasdaq NQH8, -0.42%   futures are off a bit, with techs looking slightly soggy. In Asia, Taiwan and South Korea stocks took a hit. Europe is shut for an extended holiday break.

Gold GCZ7, +0.61%  is up a little, but no big moves were seen across crude oil CLG8, -0.14%   or the dollar DXY, +0.03%  .

The chart

Bitcoin BTCUSD, +8.00%  is back above $15,000 after some pretty volatile Christmas weekend trading. Here’s a chart showing the action from the long holiday weekend. Remember that bitcoin tapped $20,000 just over a week ago.

CoinDesk

Crypto bull John McAfee tweeted out that investors should hang in there, because bitcoin will be 10 times its current price in 2018.

Opinion: Heed Warren Buffett’s warning: bitcoin is pure FOMO

The buzz

Apple is down in premarket, though other techs seem to be in OK shape so far.

Under Armour UA, -1.08%  shares are down about 5%. The Wall Street Journal has a story on investors being bothered by the CEO’s multitasking.

Fresh data shows shoppers haven’t slacked off this holiday season. A survey from Mastercard SpendingPulse shows retail sales rose at their best pace since 2011 over the festive stretch.

Read: Wal-Mart, Five Below, Dollar Tree among winners heading into final holiday shopping days

By the look of it, preholiday delivery was pretty crazy for UPS UPS, +0.05%  as it had to recruit accountants and other office staff to handle packages.

United apologized and paid up after a woman accused the airline of booting her out of her first-class seat for Dem. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

In the oil patch, regulators under the Trump administration want to roll back safety measures that were set up after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The stat
StarWars.com

Walt Disney Co.’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” opened in mid-December.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” dominated the box office over the holiday weekend. According to Variety, the Disney-backed DIS, -0.82%   film took in $32 million on Christmas Day, the second-highest takings ever on that day. It’s second only to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which took in $49.3 million in 2015. The Jedi flick drew the second-highest weekend opening ever a week or so ago.

The quote

“I’m gonna trickle my fat ass down to the jewelry store to get me a new Rolex. I’m not gonna pass it to nobody. Thank you Republicans, I know I can always count on y’all to take care of us rich people…sorry poor people, I’m hoping for y’all, but y’all ain’t got no chance.” — That was former NBA star Charles Barkley delivering some sarcasm over the Republican tax bill on his Christmas Day stint as an NBA commentator.

Random reads

Christmas in Venezuela was about as grim as you could imagine.

Trump’s Twitter holiday greeting is still bouncing around. That whole saving “Merry Christmas” thing has been grinding on some:

U.K. government is reportedly begging Prince Harry not to invite the Obamas to his wedding.

Two best friends find out they’re actually brothers.

Geography sealed the fate of a desperately ill pregnant woman and her baby in D.C.

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