Most of the time, this is hard. But sometimes, the Market Gods (Trend, Valuation, Volatility) and the minor deities who flank them (Art Cashin, Louis Rukeyser) see fit to lay an easy decision at our feet.
Apple is one of those easy decisions right at the moment.
The company has just informed us that they plan to return $100 billion dollars to you, if you are a shareholder, over the next 36 months.
This is an unheard-of sum, the Exxon dividend-buyback combo of a few years back is the only corollary. This comparison is important because Exxon is not growing but it has treated you very well over the years if you simply sat back and collected your gains and payouts from the boring business.
There are muted expectations for Apple's growth rates and innovation prowess and profit margins. Everyone is aware that it is not 2006 anymore. The hot money is no longer in control of the equity and $300 billion in market cap has already been shed. People talk about this company as though it's dead. As Jay Yarow reminds us, at $43 billion in quarterly revenue, it is anything but. For perspective, Google does $50 billion in revenue for a full year.
I don't know if Apple's next product launch with be sexier than Samsung's. But I do know that it doesn't matter, not anymore. Negatives are well-known and small positives will be surprises now. There is still downside risk, but this is true of any stock so get over it.
Most of the time, the right thing for investors to do is not easy to determine. This time it is easy. If you stuck it out with Apple over the last year, you don't sell last night's news. You stick around.