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Apple Shares Drop on Heavy Volume—Why?

Apple
Apple

Apple down 4 percent on heavy volume — what's up? Several ideas floating around.The most important one to me: At an AT&T investor conference Wednesday, the CEO of AT&T Mobility said 6.4 million smartphones had been sold the first two months of the fourth quarter, implying sales of about 9.4 million or so for the quarter, about the same as last year's fourth quarter.

We are talking about all smartphones, including Samsung and Apple, that AT&T sells, but still ... the concern is that iPhone sales may be a little lighter than expected.There are also vague concerns that tablet sales, still strong, may be slipping, about some firms raising margin requirements,and perhaps some disappointment that a special dividend was not announced. But I think worries on iPhone sales are number one.

There are also vague concerns that tablet sales, still strong, may be slipping, about some firms raising margin requirements, and perhaps some disappointment that a special dividend was not announced. But I think worries on iPhone sales are number one.

Elsewhere:

1) Financials outperform, for the wrong reason. Financials one of the few bright spots today, largely because Citigroup announced it was eliminating 11,000 jobs, four percent of its workforce. The Street cheers, but it's another sign that New York's great economic engine — financials — is facing a weak 2013.

2) Freeport debacle. Heads still shaking over the deal announced this morning by copper giant Freeport-McMoran, offering to buy Plains Exploration & Production and McMoRan Exploration in a deal that will pay $6.9 billion in cash and stock for PXP (a 39 percent premium); it will buy MMR for $3.4 billion in cash (a premium of 74 percent).

There is of course a natural arbitrage (buy PXP and MMR, sell FCX), but don't kid yourself, a 13 percent drop in Freeport today is a bit more than an arbitrage.


Here's the problems:

1) Why couldn't shareholders who wanted to invest in Plains or McMoRan Exploration have done so directly? Why do they have to pay a nearly 44 percent premium (in the case of Plains) to get it?

2) Freeport was a stand-alone copper company that was easy to understand. But now, it's a more complicated natural resources play — oil and gas and metals and mining companies are valued very differently. And, the risk profiles of these companies are very different.

The big argument for the deal is that Jim Moffett, the FCX Chairman and MMR CEO and Chairman, is one of the great wildcatters of all time. He wants to use FCX's cash flow to keep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

But a 73 percent premium? A 46 percent premium? Isn't the trend toward RETURNING money to investors —dividends, buybacks?

Yes, copper has been in the dumps this year,and yes FCX is trying to diversify. But it''s coming at an expensive price.

As I said earlier, the irony is that some investors and analysts were warming up to the idea that 2013 would be a good year for copper based on early signs that China was coming out of the doldrums.

Goldman had a note out a few days ago exactlyon this subject: "Our China Metals & Mining research team expects recent signs of recovery out of China to accelerate in 2013...[W]e believe that a sustainable recovery in China's infrastructure and property sector will be most beneficial for copper..."

—By CNBC's Bob Pisani


  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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