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No Apple stock split...for now.

David Winograd

Thursday,, CNBC and a passel of other market analysts predicted that a 4 for 1 stock split would be announced at the Apple Shareholder Meeting. This rumor moved the market, but there are conflicting opinions to why. First, for the uninitiated, a stock split is a zero sum game. One interpretation is that a firm considers its stock too highly priced for the average consumer and decides to split. For example, let's say that Apple is trading for $200 and you have one share. If a 4 for 1 stock split takes place, you will wind up 4 shares, instead of 1, but each share will be valued at $50. Did you gain or lose any money? No. It's all on paper. However, to those not familiar with the Buttonwood tree, and that's a lot of us, it sounds like 'quick buy Apple and you'll be getting 4 times as much'. The case for this sort of stupidity is well made by Barrons.

Stock splits are nothing new to AAPL. They've split 2 for 1 three time in the past, in June 1987, June 2000 and February 2005.

There are two general schools of thought on the reason behind stock splits, and they are total opposites. The first theory is that a company will split a stock if it is in trouble to allow lower dollar investors to buy their shares at half the price and thus incur less risk. The other school of thought is that a good company realizes their stock is just too expensive for the small trader who has some cash on the sidelines. It is meant to give the small guy an easier way to buy some stock without needing to commit the $200 for a share. Both sides have their points and, to an extent, both points are based on smoke and mirrors since they do not effect the worth of the company or the aggregate value of the stock by one penny.

Unless I read the word 'drop' wrong, it seems to me that the stock was down, and then the rumor came in and the stock shot up. There was no word of a split at the shareholder meeting, but as a long term AAPL watcher, I wouldn't count out a split happening in the near future. However that's just me.

Another story that seems to be gaining traction, for no good reason that I can surmise, is that Apple will declare a dividend of $33.00 per share, returning 16.66% to investors. Doing so would mean relinquishing 75% of its moneybags this year while taxes on dividends and passive income are low. It would also take Apple's walking around money from from $40 billion to $10 billion. I really wonder where this one got started since Apple hasn't declared a dividend since 1995, and playing Scrooge McDuck seems to keep Steve happy. Although Apple isn't known for buying a lot of companies scatter-shot, it's quite nice to be able to buy what you want when the right opportunity presents itself without worrying about nasty things like financing. And I haven't heard much, if any, grousing directed at Apple not forking over the dividends. Tell me if I'm wrong, but this seems like a non-story.

With all these stories whirling about, Apple went up $5.97 to close at $202.86 on Thursday. What do you make of this? Reading all the interpretations of Thurday's action makes my brain hurt.

The bottom line is: nothing happened.

Disclaimer: I own some Apple stock and all the opinions are my own.

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