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Apple stock posts small loss as buyers move in after early drop

August 25, 2011 |  3:50 pm

Knee-jerk sellers of Apple Inc. shares late Wednesday probably are wishing they hadn’t.

The stock, which fell to about $356 in after-hours trading Wednesday on news that founder Steve Jobs was stepping down as chief executive, never got that low when regular trading resumed on Nasdaq on Thursday.

Apple shares opened at $365.08, then moved gradually higher for most of the rest of the session. The stock closed at $373.72, down a modest $2.46, or 0.6%, for the day.

Applelogo Apple is down 7.4% from its record closing high of $403.41 reached on July 26, but that’s half the 14.8% drop in the Nasdaq composite index from that same date, as the stock market overall has slumped.

New CEO Tim Cook, already a known quantity to Wall Street after serving as Apple’s chief operating officer since 2005, pledged in an email to employees that “Apple is not going to change. . . .  Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that -- it is in our DNA.”

It also may have helped investors’ mood that Jobs is staying on as chairman, at least as long as his health will allow.

Meanwhile, some analysts were speculating that Apple, under Cook, could take short-term steps to reward shareholders. Bill Shope at Goldman Sachs suggested that Apple might use some of its cash hoard to pay a dividend or buy back stock.

Beyond the obvious appeal of Apple’s visionary products, many investors believe they’re getting a relative value in the stock. Although the share price has rocketed in recent years, that rise has been underpinned by enormous earnings growth.

The result: At about $374 a share, Apple has a price-to-earnings ratio of 13.6 based on analysts’ mean 2011 earnings estimate of $27.42 a share.

That’s higher than the 11.5 estimated 2011 P/E of the average blue-chip stock in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. But faster-growing companies usually command higher stock P/Es, and most S&P 500 companies don’t have the growth prospects that Apple has.

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Jobs' resignation letter to Apple

-- Tom Petruno

Photo credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News

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