The impact from the ongoing credit crisis is finally starting to translate into layoffs for the tech sector. The folks I'm talking to say that AT&T, Apple, Yahoo, Sun, eBay, Microsoft, Nortel, HP, EDS, and even Google are going to be passing around pink slips with alarming aggressiveness in weeks to come.
Sun looks like its ready to layoff 2,500 employees, Yahoo up to 3,500, Apple about 1,500, and HP will slice off a whopping 25,000 staffers after its buyout of EDS. Industry statistics say that about 1,417,000 tech staffers are out of work so far this year, and that's just in Silicon Valley (I.e., California) alone).
We'll know more in the last two weeks of October, when a lot of tech heavyweights issue their third quarter performance numbers. Yahoo, for example, which has had a rough ride this year - with its stocks price sliding by eight percent in trading just today - may lead the way with massive layoffs if Q3 numbers don't come in as expected. From the analyst notes I've seen this past week, nobody thinks that's going to happen. I certainly hope we're all wrong on Yahoo, but I suspect the worst.
Also, look for Google to re-evaluate its $1 billion investment in AOL. While nothing solid seems to be in the works regarding layoffs, AOL has closed down its AOL Journals and AOL Hometown sites, and investor confidence in the company is as low as I've ever seen it.
I'm writing all of this gloom-and-doom stuff at mid-morning on Monday, with the market looking like its headed down to another 700- or 800-point drop, primarily because of the meltdown in the European banking and credit market. Translated, that mean the big money investors think the recession is going global - quickly and severely.
Here is where I have some of the major tech companies in mid-morning trading - the carnage is mind-boggling:
Apple Inc - down $4.10 or 4.2 percent, to $92.97.
Dell Inc - down $.42 or 2.7 percent, to $14.84.
Hewlett Packard - down $1.08 or 2.5 percent, to $41.92.
IBM - down $3.07 or 3.0 percent, to $100.37.
Lexmark - down $.88 or 2.8 percent, to $30.74.
Looking at Apple, the darling of the tech sector the last few years, more and more analysts are urging investors to drop the stock and instead plow assets geared toward Apple into cash. The overall sour market is a big reason, but lousy sales projections and a meager-than-expected Christmas buying season are huge factors, as well. Not helping was a bogus "citizen reporter" news-flash from CNN saying that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack. CNN should be ashamed of itself.
As one Wall Street wag put it, "No publicly traded company is more tied to the health of its CEO. The harsh reaction to the stock also underscores the power of the Internet rumor mill."
But, for the lion-hearted, there are certainly great deals to be had and Apple is at the top of the list. This, from CNBC.com this morning:
"Bargains abound amidst the financial fiasco. Apple has galvanized the handset world with its iPhone. The main things that set it apart are its amazingly simple user interface and its operating system. And we believe it is also set to make its chip unique. Earlier in the year, it acquired PA Semi to vertically integrate into semiconductors. It currently uses ARM based processors made by Samsung in the iPhone. Its recent 3G iPhone, with a push email function and competitive pricing, have made the phone even more irresistible, and iPhone sales are soaring. Though Apple’s worldwide smartphone market share decreased in Q208 to 2.8% from 5.3% in Q108, the new 3G iPhone is expected to help the company regain market share in the second half of 2008."
"The stock has gone from $180 in August down to below $100 on Thursday. The chart looks positively scary. But, for those who have been looking for Apple to come down due to macro conditions, this may be your moment."
So, the consensus on Apple is to flee to safety - and cash. But for the bargain shopper, Apple could offer long-term promise.