Last week Apple Inc (AAPL) shocked the market when it said revenue in its holiday quarter would miss expectations. This news sent Apple shares down as much as 7% after hours and confirmed the market’s biggest fear about the global economy — that trade is slowing down businesses around the globe. In a letter wrote to investors, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook explains: “In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad. China’s economy began to slow in the second half of 2018. The government-reported GDP growth during the September quarter was the second lowest in the last 25 years. We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States.” Apple now expects revenue will total $84 billion in its fiscal first quarter, below its initial guidance for revenue of $89-$93 billion the company gave Wall Street back in November. Apple’s stock price has already fallen 33% since the August high of last year, meaning AAPL is officially in a bear market. And there’s no telling how low it will continue to slide.
But it’s not only Apple that is facing headwinds. Alphabet is also playing in the slower growth environment. An increasing number of software companies are looking to bypass the dominant app store gatekeepers at Apple and Google — selling their services directly to consumers and undercutting the tech giants. This would change how most iPhone and Android users discover, download and pay for their apps. In 2016, music service Spotify ended its support for in-app subscription payments.
Most recently Netflix has been leading the charge on leaving Apple’s platform. It plans to cut off a lucrative relationship for Apple when it confirmed that new customers will no longer be able to pay their monthly subscription fees through iTunes. Instead, subscribers are being redirected to make payments on Netflix’s own website.
Apple made as much as $257 million (U.S.) from Netflix this way in 2018, according to estimates by Sensor Tower, a San Francisco-based market research firm. “But as Netflix continues to grow internationally, Apple stands to miss out on up to half a billion dollars in 2019 from Netflix alone”, said Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at Sensor Tower.
When the global economy is uncertain, investors tend to be more cautious. Just days after U.S. president Donald Trump said things were going well with the us China trade negotiations, the ongoing transpacific trade issue took another tumble. China’s recent slowdown has been a major issue for the stock markets worldwide. The Chinese manufacturing sector shrunk recently, adding to the list of downward trending indicators for China and on the first full global trading day of 2019. The latest figures for the key purchasing managers index show a fall to 49.4% in December. The latest reading is the lowest since February 2016. The Chinese PMI has not been above 50% since July of last year. The key Chinese equity markets all fell on the news.
However, during times of uncertain risk one asset class tends to do well. Last week gold hit its highest peak since June of 2018. Part of the reason for the rise has been the recent instability of markets around the globe which has pressured investors to move to safe havens like gold and other precious metals which is priced in U.S. dollars, which also tends to rise when met with the possibility of inflation. Many investors hold some gold as a form of insurance. So far the stock market in 2019 has been performing well, but if we hit a financial crisis like in 2008 then including some bonds, prime real estate, and precious metals in our portfolios could help.