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Can Apple’s Stock Get Back on Track?

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The Cupertino Kid looked to be unstoppable.

Apple stock was hitting new high after new high in the first quarter — blowing by Google— in its run-up to an all-time high of $644 on April 10.

Since then, Apple has dropped 16 percent — giving up over $100 a share and now trailing Google by nearly that amount.

So what’s changed in a month?

The S&P 500 has dropped more than 5 percent since April 10 — with the S&P 500 Tech Index currently on an 11-day losing streak.

"Once [Apple stock] reached its top, it started to underperform the market ... Now it's going down in line with the market," Robbert Van Batenburg, head of global research at Louis Capital Markets, told CNBC’s“Street Signs” on Thursday.

Van Batenburg saw this coming.

On March 21, he told CNBC, “As [Apple stock] nears the $650-a-share level, then suddenly a group of sellers comes in that hasn't been there yet and that could take the market by surprise."

We now know that during the first quarter some of the biggest hedge funds were taking profits during Apple’s 2012 ascent.

According to the latest 13-F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission , Andreas Halvorsen's Viking Global Investors, Jim Simons’s Renaissance Technologies, and Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital were all big sellers of Apple stock in the first quarter.

Van Batenburg thinks money will start chasing Apple again when the stock dips to $450 a share.

He’s concerned that the global financial crisis is starting to weigh on the American consumer, and thus Apple — evidenced he says by recent red-flags from J.C. Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Limited Brands.

But Tavis McCourt, managing director and senior analyst at Raymond James, disagrees, “The reality is that even through a really bad consumer spending environment in '08 and '09, [Apple] was one of the few companies that was able to grow earnings extremely significantly."

"Over the longer-term, earnings are what drive stocks, and relative to the vast majority of tech stocks out there, Apple has a much better chance of growing its earnings pretty significantly over the next 12 to 18 months," he said.

McCourt has a price target of $800 a share on Apple over the next 52-weeks — a bullish case even echoed by famed short-seller David Einhorn, whose Greenlight Capital held its stake in Apple steady in the first quarter.

"Apple is still penetrating markets and gaining share,” Einhorn told the crowd Wednesday at the Sohn Investment Conference in New York.

“I have a hard time seeing how anyone ranks Apple as below average," he said.

Meanwhile, Dan Loeb’s Third Point—which has been in the news recently for shaking-up Yahoo! — took a new position in Apple.

David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management tripled in size its Apple stake.

Disclosures: Raymond James makes a market in the securities of Apple.

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