Be aware that I have spent considerable effort warning subscribers and free content readers of the games being played over at Apple. Apparently I am one of the very few, if not sole sources for said analytical content. In the , meantime, the esteemed broking houses of sell side Wall Street have been busy passing out big buy recommendations at unrealistic prices all day long. Reference "Goldman’s $430 Target, Screaming Buy On Apple At Its All Time High Is In Direct Contravention To Reggie Middleton’s Logic – Who’s Right? Well, Who Has Been More Right In The Past?" Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 and "Reggie Middleton Takes The Challenge To Goldman Sach’s Apple Proclamation One Step Farther, Apple’s Closed System Risks Failure!" Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Soooo, what do you think Goldman Sachs does as it fleeces recommends its clients attempt to ride Apple, the company with probably the most competition in the world in front of what is likely to be a global economic slowdown (at best) up to unheard of all time highs (off of its current all time high) in the face of impending margin compression?
The quick answer is they take full advantage of the illogical love-fest that was formerly know as Apple and front run the recommendation. After all, how many clients actually pay for that pesky BoomBustBlog analysis anyway. Most of them will never have a clue and we need to juice that bonus pool. It's finally getting warm and the new Azimut models are out with those funky IPS drives (you know how the baddest chicks dig yachts!)...
From the Street.com: Goldman Sachs Sells Its 'Conviction Buys'
A so-called Chinese Wall is supposed to exist between investment banks' research and asset-management divisions, but recent calls, especially coming from subprime-securites proponent Goldman Sachs, warrant further scrutiny. Goldman helped to catalyze the recent commodity sell-off as its researchers expected little upside when the economy hit a soft patch. Crude oil tumbled beneath $100 on that report. Then, two days ago, with few fundamental changes in the demand outlook, Goldman reversed its stance, advising clients to buy.
This flip-flopping from Wall Street's most closely followed researcher is being perceived by some as client-fleecing since the bank is able to trade in proprietary accounts before it releases research and the markets react, as they often do to Goldman's calls.
Similarly, many sell-side researchers award stocks "buy" or "overweight" ratings even as their internal asset-management units unload shares, presenting a conflict of interest and ethical dilemma. Goldman's most famous front-runs to date were the Abacus transactions, through which the bank allegedly postured for high ratings for its mortgage-backed CDOs, sold them to clients and then shorted them.
News broke yesterday, or rather, a blogger pulled data yesterday to show that Goldman dumped 1,260,802 shares of Apple(AAPL)during the first quarter, even as its research division rated the stock "buy" and maintained its lofty $470 target. Little due diligence is done in the journalism community on the interplay between asset-management and research units.
Hmmm!!! Averaging about $340 per Apple share, Goldman sold about $428,672,680 worth of Apple stock into Apple loving, Apple can do no wrong, Apple has superior user experience, Apple will never face margin compression, Apple has shiny new products on tap, Google Android phones are cheap, I don't care if the competition is taking over the world, Apple juice sucking client purchases. It also appears as if the street.com reference predates the NASDAQ rebalancing away from Apple, so that is not an excuse for the Goldman sale.
... Of the 58 so-called Conviction Buy stocks that Goldman recommended to clients during the first quarter, it sold 31, or more than half, according to its 13-F filing. [We did not include Goldman mutual funds in these calculations]. Of the 31 Conviction Buys that Goldman sold, it sold more than 1 million shares of 12 of those stocks, begging the question: How does Goldman define "conviction"? To most investors, it means putting your money where your mouth is.
Reggie vs Goldman Sachs
Why didn’t Wall Street read my post on Lehman being a yellow lying lemon? See “Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?” and realize that this post was made on February 20th, when Goldman Sachs had a recommended price of about $55 while this blog warned that Lehman may be done for. This very similar to when I warned about the potential demise of Bear Stearns in January, when the rest of the Street had a “buy” at about $130 per share. See Is this the Breaking of the Bear?. 7 We all know how both of these stories ended. Please click the graph to enlarge to print quality size.
If you look into my original post on performance (see “Performance!“), you can see when I recommended strong shorts on Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, both highly contrarian views at the beginning of the year, and both returned way over 100% and in the case of Goldman, is still pushing profits.
Reggie's Analysis Trounces Goldman's Nearly Every Time, But It Has Nothing To Do With His Being Smarter Or Better. Reggie Doesn't Have Clients To Front Run!
Before anybody decides to jump on the Goldman bandwagon, it may be worthwhile to ascertain who was has been the most accurate over time. After all, we often query "Is It Now Common Knowledge That Goldman’s Investment Advice Sucks???" It has been asked in the past...Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best?
The impetus of this performance discrepancy is too much to go into here. The Street.com article scratches the surface, and Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article does a deep dive, reference The People vs. Goldman Sachs:
They weren't murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it.
Yes, we are more optimistic on Apples' earnings than the sell side (reference page 16 in subscription document Apple - Competition and Cost Structure). "Why is that, considering all that you have written above?", you ask. Well, let's delve in farther from a logical, purely analytical perspective...
Hey, but didn't Reggie warn about this blatant manipulation many months ago?
Yer, damn skippy I did! Reference "How Google is Looking to Cut Apple’s Margin and How the Sell Side of Wall Street Will Enable This Without Sheeple Investor’s Having a Clue" (yeah, that's right! The title says it all):
No, Google is not in the mobile space for search ads, it's looking to become the next Microsoft with Android as the next Windows. It is thinking big, simultaneously going after both the consumer and the enterprise space with cloud-based software and services - and advertising!
In the meantime, sheeple-like investors are being hoodwinked by quarter after quarter of Apple blow out earnings. Don't get me wrong. I feel and fully acknowledge that Apple is executing on all 8 cylinders of a 6 cylinder engine, but it still has its real world limitations. Apple will start to bump up against these limitation over the next 4 quarters, and the signs of this bump are already apparent. Of course, the signs are being handily masked by the games that Apple management and the sell side analysts of Wall Street play, with the "Sheeple" retail and the lazier component of the institutional investors being put out to take the eventual bullet.
Riddle me this - If Apple can consistently beat the estimates of your favorite analysts quarter after quarter, after quarter - for 11 quarters straight, shouldn't you fire said analysts for incompetency in lieu of celebrating Apple's ability to surprise? After all, it is no longer a surprise after the 11th consecutive occurrence, is it? I would be surprised if my readers were surprised by an Apple surprise. Seriously! Apple management consistently lowballs guidance to such an extent that it can easily manage, no - actually create outperformance. This has has a very positive effect on their valuation. Of course, I do not blame Apple management for this, of they are charged with maximizing shareholder return. The analytical community and the (sheeple) investors which they (allegedly) serve is another matter though. Subscribers can download the data that shows the blatant game being played between Apple and the Sell Side here: Apple Earnings Guidance Analysis. Those who need to subscribe can do so here.
Below, I drilled down on the date and used a percentage difference view to illustrate the improvement in P/E stemming from the earnings beats.
In our analysis of Apple, we are using real world assumptions of future performance derived from backing in to the low balling this company is prone to. If you look at its history carefully you can gauge what management is comfortable with, hence what they may be capable of on the margin. Using these more realistic numbers, it is much more likely Apple will deliver a miss in the upcoming quarters in its battle with the Android! The following is the reason why...
So there you have it. We have a stronger earnings component, but that earnings component is much less likely to be taken out by multiple, consecutive and repetitive upside "surprises". In addition, we see margin compression in the near to medium term as competition ramps up. Of course, our valuation flies in the face of that of Goldman's: Goldman’s $430 Target, Screaming Buy On Apple At Its All Time High Is In Direct Contravention To Reggie Middleton’s Logic – Who’s Right? Well, Who Has Been More Right In The Past? Tuesday, December 14th, 2010a and Reggie Middleton Takes The Challenge To Goldman Sach’s Apple Proclamation One Step Farther, Apple’s Closed System Risks Failure! Wednesday, December 15th, 2010