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Apple’s market valuation plummets as consumer sentiment, demand drops

By Sarah May
|
March 5, 2023

In a potentially ominous sign for Joe Biden's economy, Apple's market share suffered a more than 3% decline on Tuesday, sending the tech behemoth's valuation under $2 trillion for the first time in roughly a year, as the Daily Mail reports.

The news comes amid slumping consumer confidence attributed by some experts to continued concerns over inflation and slowing economic growth, according to CBS News.

Declines raise concerns

As the Mail pointed out, the drop of 3.74% on Tuesday brought Apple's shares down to $130.20 and its valuation down to $1.99 trillion, representing a 12-month low point.

The disappointing development came amid worsening declines in consumer confidence that have raised red flags among investors, particularly in the wake of downturns in the tech sector more broadly.

As CBS News noted, The Conference Board on Tuesday revealed its consumer confidence index dropped to 102.9 last month, down from January's reading of 106.

In addition, the group's expectations index, which measures consumers' six-month predictions for business, labor, and income conditions, fell from 76 in January down to 69.7 in February, with any reading under 80 typically believed to be a signal for a recession within the year.

Apple's challenges mount

The wave of difficulties facing Apple started making headlines late last year when the company suffered a noteworthy stock price drop when news emerged that production at the Foxconn factory in China where iPhones are produced had been disrupted by pandemic lockdowns which resulted  in protests, as Forbes noted at the time.

Stemming from that situation, reports suggested that a production lag impacting upwards of six million iPhone pro devices would occur, a factor to which the plummeting stock price was attributed.

Given that the Foxconn facility at issue is responsible for approximately 70% of all iPhone shipments around the world, news of the production problems unsurprisingly led to concerns about Apple's profitability.

Making matters worse was the fact that the factory is currently concentrating on the production of iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max versions of the popular device, both of which are particularly high-margin offerings from the company.

Broader economic implications?

As CBS News noted, shaky consumer confidence readings for February are giving a number of experts pause, including Ataman Ozyildirim at The Conference Board, who noted that the 35 to 54-year-old age group showed an alarming drop.

As such, he suggested, consumers across the economy may have already entered a period in which they are slashing spending due to high interest rates and lingering high prices.

Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics echoed those sentiments regarding consumer hesitancy, saying, “Households are likely cautious given inflation is still elevated and borrowing costs are rising.”

Farooqi did note, however, that consumers “are continuing to spend for now, owing to strong job growth that is restoring incomes,” though it is unclear whether that trend will endure.

Strategic moves afoot

Even prior to last week's bad news, Apple CEO Tim Cook had already begun plans to shift portions of its production capacity out of China, with India and Vietnam reported to be potential target destinations.

Such moves are due not just to pandemic-related disruptions, but also to the company's realization that increased tensions between Washington, D.C. And Beijing are likely to pose a host of additional political difficulties to continued production at the Foxcomm facility, as Forbes explained.

Apple was poised to shift roughly 5% of its iPhone 14 production capacity to India by the end of last year, with 25% of all iPhone manufacturing set to move there by 2025.

As Forbes noted separately, reports emerged earlier this year that Apple is planning to release a new, more affordable version of its popular AirPods in the relatively near future, and with a rumored price point around $99, and whether that will make a significantly positive difference in the company's fortunes amid ongoing volatility, only time will tell.