Late Monday evening, Apple posted an update on its Investor Relations Page.
It was the President's Day Holiday, and obviously Apple was anxious to down-play this news. The news was that Apple would have to reduce its Quarterly Guidance.
Two factors were reducing Apple sales: the first was slow down in Apple iPhone production due to the Covid-19 Virus affecting China.
And the second, related news was that Apple Stores throughout China were closed also due to the pandemic.
By Tuesday morning, this news spread around Wall Street, and markets buckled. But quickly regained their composure, and closed only modestly down on the day.
In spite of the muted reaction on the Market's so far this week, the full impact of this announcement by Apple has yet to play out.
Let me explain.We are literally in the middle of Earnings Season, a carefully orchestrated routine that Wall Street goes through each quarter. This is the time of the quarter when companies present their operational results for the quarter ended December 31. Right now the earnings parade is peaking, with a hundred or more companies holding their conference calls each day.
For instance, today 160 companies are scheduled to report. This is the opportunity for each of those companies to play up their accomplishments, and if needed explain any shortcomings.
Its also the time when companies point forward to the current quarter and guide Wall Street to what they see ahead. These are the so-called “Forward-Looking Statements,” that are part of their legal disclosures.
Forward Looking Statements are carefully crafted and closely watched, to make sure that they are an accurate representation of the company's future outlook. Any misstatements here can cause the company to run afoul of the regulators.
So the first thing you notice in the Apple Statement is that it is a dramatic departure from their guidance of fewer than 3 weeks ago. When Apple announced their earnings on January 28th they told us that things were looking pretty upbeat for the next quarter. Now in this announcement, they are telling us that their primary production is delayed, and their second-largest market is closed.
Pretty dramatic. And also, the likely reason that absolutely no numbers are attached to this statement. Just generalizations.
The question naturally arises: why didn't management know this 3 weeks ago?
But putting that issue aside, for the moment, that is Apple's Management Responsibility for full disclosures. The fact remains that Apple's outlook has changed dramatically. The Covid-19 Virus impact on their business appears to be dramatic.
And it's likely to be so for all those companies with major operations in China.
So here is that change of Message: forget about last quarter, said Apple.
It will be an entirely different outlook for next quarter. There is a new reality.
So throw away those old spreadsheets. There's a new game in town, and Wall Street needs to prepare.
The past is over, its a new future with Covid-19, the Novell Coronavirus at the center of it all.