Quarterly quiverings

Today is that demisemiannual day in which Apple bloggers set aside their normal concern for fonts, rounded rectangles, and skeuomorphism and gather ’round the conference call to hear the latest financial pronouncement from the grandees of Cupertino. And as the great men speak in numbers that require exponential notation, the bloggers take to their keyboards to let us know that all is Good.

I avoid most of this chatter, but short of shutting out Twitter and RSS entirely for the day, it’s not possible to avoid it all. I understand why bloggers—especially professional bloggers who have advertisers to satisfy—write about the earnings call. What I don’t understand is why readers care. If you’re an Apple investor you’ll want to see the quarterly numbers, of course, but you don’t really want them filtered through someone who spends most of his time talking about iOS weather apps, do you? And if you’re not an Apple investor, what difference does it make to you? Sure, you want to know that Apple’s doing well enough to survive and keep making the products you like, but that seems like a pretty safe bet these days.

I will admit that the response to the last couple of quarterly reports has been interesting. For years, as Apple continually beat the analysts’ forecasts, Apple enthusiasts would point and laugh at how these so-called experts could get it so wrong. Now, as the stock price is falling and the analysts are no longer making foolish underestimates, the enthusiasts are still pointing to strong profits and revenue growth, still saying the so-called experts have got it wrong, but they’re not laughing anymore. The triumphalism has been replaced by anger, frustration, and defensiveness.

One unfortunate side effect of this change has been a tendency to latch onto any analysis that shows Apple (or, more specifically, AAPL) in a positive light. Today, for example, I saw several links to this bit of numerological nonsense. I’ve seen discussions of Fibonacci retracement1 before, and the idea that there are investment managers out there who believe in this hooey always makes me want to pull my money out of stocks and bury it in the backyard.

I don’t use a Mac or an iPhone because of Apple’s balance sheet. I use them because they (usually) work for me, and I save my anger and frustration for when they don’t. I’m far more affected by an iCloud screwup than by the iPhone’s market share, by Lion’s removal of Save As… than by Apple’s stock price, and by Preview’s lack of AppleScript support than by anything Rob Enderle says.

  1. The basic idea of Fibonacci retracement is this: an investment that has gained will hit a peak and then suffer losses before starting to gain again. The percentage amount of the loss will typically be near a value that can be calculated from ratios of Fibonacci numbers. (There are similar calculations for predicting gains after losses.) The most popular ratios are 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, and 61.8%. Since these are relatively closely spaced and cover a broad range, it’s not surprising that people who believe in this bullshit can find examples where it works. It’s a combination of cherry picking and numerical pareidolia