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Friday stocks: Apple selling slows, Home Depot’s mojo back

Written By | Sep 22, 2017

Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission. (See below)*

WASHINGTON, September 21, 2017 – Maybe today’s Wall Street action was stimulating for some traders. It certainly was a dull day for this writer.

The good news: Allergan (symbol: AGN) and its associated convertible term preferred A shares (AGN/PRA, your symbol may vary) finally caught a bid, halting, however briefly, the epic, waterfall decline experienced by these shares over the past 10 days in particular. Hopefully, Monday’s tea leaves will tell us we’ve hit bottom. But during pretty much every September I can remember, you have better odds at the Las Vegas quarter slots than you do in your portfolio.

At any rate, given that we’re heavily invested in the preferred shares, we’ll take a break wherever we can get it. Word is that investors in most pharmaceuticals got a break today when Republican “maverick” John McCain screwed the Republican pooch once again when he announced that he would vote against the promising Graham-Cassidy modified Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill, which would have turned considerable autonomy for health insurance back to the states, supporting the move with block grants.

McCain, for whatever reason – probably Trump hatred – promises to kill the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare replacement, so it looks like it’s déja vu all over again for the Stupid Party. And after all the time Republicans have spent courting that other iffy vote – Alaska’s fake Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski. If Hollywood ever does a remake of “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” they could put together an entire new cast for that classic by inviting Republican senators to take the starring roles.

Oh, well…

More good news: After weakening this week, likely due to profit-taking by nervous investors, Home Depot (HD), our chief retail holding, is bouncing back toward its recent highs. Go Home Depot! (Of course, any profits I can grab on this one will end up back in their pockets again, as our house, like all homes, is a money pit.)

Ditto Lowes, although its recent returns are proving anemic when compared to the big HD kahuna.

The bad news: Having sneaked back into Apple shares (AAPL) during the initial portion of their traditional post September product show decline, we’re regretting that we didn’t hold off. The decline has continued pretty much unabated. Shares were off a buck fifty Friday, and the price at the closing bell was down to $151.89. That’s about the average cost of these shares the last time we entered an Apple round-tripper earlier this year.

The stock is getting hit by all sorts of unsubstantiated rumors, including one that claims they know iPhone 8 sales are way down since there are hardly any waiting lines for the devices at Apple stores. Reality check, rumormongers: You can pre-order these puppies online. Did you forget?

Another rumor surfaced today that there wasn’t much interest in either iPhone 8 models or the hotsy-totsy iPhone X special edition. Again, DUH! Re: the iPhone 8’s, same as before, online orders. As far as the iPhone X models? None available until November, so how does anyone really know whether or not sales for this model are “disappointing.”

Since time immemorial, the belief system of Apple bears has been about as unshakeable as the belief system prevalent among die-hard feminist Democrats – namely, that Hillary Clinton was robbed in Election 2016 and that she’s still the smartest woman in the whole wild world. Supporters of Hillary’s sainthood and Apple’s imminent destruction will never be dissuaded from their core beliefs.

In the case of Apple, however, what’s probably going on first and foremost is profit taking based on the stock’s long, steady ascent after its November 2016 bottoming at $104 per share, give or take.

By bits and pieces, we re-entered the stock recently, for prices averaging in the mid $150s. Whether this was a good idea or a bad one remains to be seen. But after a week back in the stock, it’s looking like a bad one.

Other good news. Our somewhat chancy position in Marathon Oil Corp. is inching steadily up, giving us a current paper gain of circa 16 percent. Our Schwab and Guggenheim ETFs are all looking good, at least as the moment, so we keep sneaking in tiny trades of 5 shares or so at a time on negative days to average out at the best price. Making this even better, all these ETFs trade without commission at our brokerage, which, in turn, makes it easier to dollar-cost average in tiny increments.

Now, if those doggoned AGN/PRA shares (which, BTW, pay a handsome dividend) could get back to the line of scrimmage, our collective accounts would look a whole lot better than they do right now. But that might not happen until we move from the usual lousy September into a more hopeful October environment.

Have a good weekend.

*Above cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with LegalInsurrection.

Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17