Apple shares slump ahead of iPad Mini reveal

You want a villain? Try negative press related to Apple supplier Foxconn, concerns about growth, and even a conspiracy theory.

Apple flagship store in New York City Dan Farber/CNET

Last update: 2:19 p.m. PT -- added Apple's closing price.

Apple shares are down nearly 10 percent since hitting an all-time high of $705 last month, prompting a flurry of explanations, including one conspiracy theory, for the stock retreat ahead of a brand-new product.

The recent slide, which started in the middle of September, is counterintuitive to the usual principle of buying on the rumor. Apple is widely expected to unveil its smaller, lower-cost iPad Mini next week, with invitations for the event believed to be coming over the next few days.

As of 9:54 a.m. PT, Apple shares were down 1 percent to $631.47. At the end of the trading day, shares closed at $635.85, down $2.32, or just 0.36 percent.

Of course, it's not the typical Apple product cycle. The company just finished releasing its latest iPhone, which is by far Apple's most significant product in terms of revenue and profit. Anticipation over the iPhone 5 and its subsequent record-breaking launch played a major role driving the stock to its latest peak.

Not everything, however, is smiles and happiness in Apple-land. While iPhone 5 sales have been impressive in the early run, it's unclear how the device will fare as many other strong alternatives hit the market. Some fear that the iPhone's growth will eventually slow over the next few years, with Android taking over as the pre-eminent smartphone platform.

Further dampening iPhone 5 enthusiasm are the reports from Apple supplier Foxconn about strikes and riots at its factories -- some of which were linked directly to the iPhone 5 . Those issues have raised some understandable concerns over whether Apple can produce enough iPhone 5s to meet demand.

Apple also hasn't yet struck an expected deal with wireless giant China Mobile , which could open a huge new market to the company. (The iPhone has dramatically lagged other phones in China .) Investors are likely nervous about the timing of that deal.

One other theory, brought up by Fortune, suggests that hedge fund managers are purposely bashing Apple and hammering its stock down in order to ride an eventual bounceback -- for example, one that might be triggered by the release of the iPad Mini or by positive fourth-quarter earnings, which are slated to be released on October 25.

The iPad Mini could be one answer to the question of where Apple will continue to grow over the next year or two. While the iPad continues to be strong, the iPad Mini could potentially expand the market with its lower price. The smaller tablet may attract more budget-mindful consumers or existing iPad users looking for another companion device for their family members.

"We continue to believe iPad Mini is the competition's worst nightmare, but attractive price points will be key," said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee.

Wu is one of the analysts who doesn't believe Apple's run is done, although it may take a while before Apple's stock reverses course.

"We believe concerns are overdone and this appears to be a typical consolidation after a big run," he said in a research note.

 

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