Apple Update: Market Cheers Changes, Big Question Remains

04/24/2014 4:00 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Today, this technology monster made an announcement pertaining to two huge changes, which had the market cheering, however, MoneyShow's Jim Jubak is still awaiting an answer to an even bigger question before updating his target price.

Think of it as $40 billion to buy time.

Yesterday, after the close, Apple (AAPL) announced that it would increase its dividend by 8% and boost buybacks of its own shares to $130 billion by the end of 2015. The total cost comes to about $40 billion. (The company also announced a 7-to-1 stock split. Speculation is that the lower price might get Apple included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.)

Today, the market is cheering those changes—and the surprisingly strong sales of iPhones in the company’s March quarter. (i-Phone sales of 43.7 million units trounced Wall Street projections for 38.5 million units.) As of 2:45 PM New York time today, April 24, Apple shares were up 8.2%. (Apple is a member of my Jubak’s Picks portfolio.)

Apple can clearly afford the cash. The company finished March with $150.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents. That’s down from $158.8 billion at the end of December. That’s the first sequential quarterly decline in cash at the company since 2011. Of that, only $18 billion is in the United States with the rest overseas—a continuing problem for Apple. (The company has said that it will tap the debt markets again for a piece of the payouts. Interest rates on debt are way lower than the taxes that Apple would pay to repatriate its profits.)

But none of this addresses the big question/problem for Apple: When will the company announce a big, new, revenue monster of a product? Nothing like that yesterday, with CEO Tim Cook only repeating his mantra of “We are working on it” and “It takes time to get it right.”

Speculation continues to point toward iPhones with bigger screens (not a game changer—more like catch up with competitors), a watch-like device (competitors’ products so far don’t suggest this would produce monster sales), and a new Apple TV set-top box (almost a necessity, given how long this has been talked about).

It’s not a trivial task to revive growth at a company that did $45.6 billion in sales during the March quarter. (That was sales growth of just 4.6% year over year, though.)

But that’s what investors will be looking for after they’re cashed those dividend checks and relished that stock split.

The company doesn’t have a whole lot of time for new product announcements if it is going to make crucial end-of-the-year holiday sales season deadlines. The next big Apple event that could serve as a product announcement platform is the company’s developers’ conference in June.

At this moment, I don’t see a reason to raise my current target price of $650 a share.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I was hoping for something on new products yesterday.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund did not own shares of Apple as of the end of March. In preparation for closing the fund at the end of May, as of the end of March I had moved the fund’s holdings almost totally to cash.

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