Gasp! Apple shares drop below $400 for the first time in two years

Apple needs something more than the millionth version of this.
Apple needs something more than the millionth version of this.
Image: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man
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Apple shares fell sharply today, briefly dipping below $400 a share for the first time since 2011. The drop came after Apple chip supplier Cirrus Logic said future revenues would miss analyst estimates. Cirrus blamed weaker demand for a product made by one of its customers, leading investors to speculate that the product is Apple’s iPhone.

The market is already expecting underwhelming earnings when Apple reports its profit numbers next week. With increased competition from Samsung, Apple shares have fallen by more than 40% since last September, when it was trading above $700.

The stock drop has ramped up shareholder pressure on Apple to return more cash to investors. It’s been criticized by hedge fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, who said Apple should stop acting like a grandmother hoarding money during the Great Depression. Apple is expected to announce it plans to give some of its $137 billion cash pile to investors, whether through a dividend increase or share buyback, according to sources.

That will boost the value of Apple’s stock but doesn’t answer the question of how Apple will regain its cool factor. After Steve Jobs died, there were questions about whether Apple could keep up its habit of producing products that consumers didn’t know they wanted. His successor, CEO Tim Cook, has yet to convince investors that Apple is still as creative as it was during its heyday. Although a dividend boost or stock buyback will definitely be welcomed by investors, Apple needs more than just financial engineering to get its mojo back.