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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Worries Grow as Ray Dalio Changes China Tune

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Apple Inc. worries in China continue to grow. Despite Tim Cook’s assertion that the firm’s view on China hasn’t changed, the world’s biggest investors are changing their outlook on the world’s second biggest economy. Ray Dalio, the brain behind the world’s largest hedge fund, says his view on China has changed. There’s “now no safe places to invest.”

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Apple saw impressive growth in China in the third quarter. The problem for the firm, and one of the reasons that stock fell by so much after its report was delivered, is that it didn’t really see growth anywhere else. It looks like China may soon slow down, and the world’s biggest phone maker could suffer as a result.

Counting on Apple growth in China

Apple revenue in China in the third quarter ballooned to $13.23 billion, up from $6.23 billion in the same quarter of 2014. The firm’s total revenue grew from $39.8bn to $49.43bn compared to the year before. Growth in China formed more than 70 percent of the firm’s total sales growth.

Tim Arcuri, in a report released just after Apple’s results emerged, was the first to blow the whistle on China. He said that “evidence of a widespread demand reset from China is mounting.” Though the Cowen analyst’s call shook Apple stock, Mr. Dalio’s note will carry much more weight on Wall Street.

Mr. Dalio expects the recent stock market shock in China to echo through the entire economy. “Even those who haven’t lost money in stocks will be affected psychologically by events, and those effects will have a depressive effect on economic activity,” he wrote in his note to investors.

There appears to be little enough downside for Apple, or at least that’s what many of the Wall Street firms following Tim Cook’s company are saying. The firm has about $150B in cash net of debt, putting the market value of its cash-generating business at around $570B, or $100 per share.
Wall Street is, by consensus, looking for earnings per share of $9.12 for the full year 2015 putting the firm’s forward P/E at just under 11.

Hedge funds bet against China

Mr. Dalio isn’t the only hedge fund voice that has spoken out against China in recent weeks. Bill Ackman, of Pershing Square, said at a recent conference that the state of the country “looks worse to me than 2007 in the United States.”
Apple has, judging by its recent results, been cushioned from that blow. iPhone sales grew 87 percent year over year in the country while the wider smartphone market grew by just 5 percent. If China does enter a depression, as Mr. Dalio, Mr. Ackman and Mr. Arcuri are warning, Apple’s ability to stay ahead of the pack may not last much longer.
With 70 percent of its growth coming directly from China, it’s hard to see how Apple will be able to deflect a fall in the country’s aggregate demand. How that would effect the wider stock market in the US, and Apple in particular, isn’t clear.
Investors have rolled back most of the losses suffered after Apple’s June report, and many on Wall Street, including Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, were telling clients to buy the dip.
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