Today: Fireworks fail to ignite at Apple (AAPL) shareholders meeting, but stock falls after CEO Tim Cook speaks to investors. Also: Wall Street completes rebound from Monday's decline, with tech stocks a big reason.
Apple heads lower after shareholders meeting a snooze
Apple's annual shareholders meeting came and went with none of the fireworks expected during the long and messy buildup to the event, but the lack of any action that could have been seen as an attempt to boost the company's flagging share price led to losses on a day when other stocks soared higher.
After months of weakness that have dragged Apple's stock price down more than 35 percent from its peak and calls from a high-profile investor for Apple to share its wealth of cash, eyes were fixated on the event at Apple's Cupertino headquarters Wednesday morning. However, after voting on the business at hand -- re-electing the board of directors, a process that showed shareholders have a 99.1 percent approval rate of CEO Tim Cook, along with four other agenda items -- very little of substance occurred.
Most shareholders have been focusing on Apple's $137 billion in cash, hoping that it will be pushed back out to them, the basis of activist investor David Einhorn's much-ballyhooed lawsuit
After Cook's speech closely mirrored his talk at a technology conference in San Francisco earlier this month, an investor asked if -- as he said in that speech -- he still believes Einhorn's suit was "silly."
"I strongly believe it was a silly sideshow, regardless of how the judge ruled," Cook said. However, he did later add, "I don't think the issue of returning cash to shareholders is silly -- we're seriously considering it."
Cook also said Apple was "very. very active" in discussions on how to reward investors with some of its cash hoard during the event. However, the talk will not be enough for large investors, who expect a stock split or some sort of boost from Apple.
"The stock isn't going to do much until the investment community gets more granularity or clarity about how they are thinking about returning capital to shareholders," Apple shareholder and president of Bridges Investment Management Ted Bridges told Bloomberg News.
Smaller investors said they were not as concerned as the large hedge-fund managers, though they still expect some action from Apple.
"Apple needs to be more attuned to the concerns of investors, and hopefully they'll split the stock," Mark Marley, an Apple shareholder for five years, told the Mercury News. "But I don't like Einhorn's proposal because basically it benefits the hedge-fund investors and not the rest of us."
Other questions ranged from rote to banal, including one investor's complaint that the Apple Store in Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade needed a bathroom. The one bit of news Cook did announce was that Apple's new spaceship-style headquarter is not expected to open until 2016; 2015 was the previous target.
Apple stock fell after the event, then rebounded before falling again just before the bell, when shares were selling for $444.57, a loss of 1 percent.
Indexes again near record levels as Bernanke, housing guide stocks
Apple's decline seems larger than it was because the rest of Wall Street zoomed higher Wednesday, with all three indexes gaining more than 1 percent despite the direction of the most valuable company in the United States. With Wednesday's gains -- the second-highest one-day jump of 2013 -- stocks fully recovered from Monday's doldrums and again closed in on record levels.
The Dow Jones industrial average hit five-year highs in again surpassing 14,000 while the Standard & Poor's 500 topped 1,500 as both indexes gained 1.3 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 1 percent while the SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest technology companies gained 0.7 percent.
Experts said the impetus for Wednesday's gains were the same as Tuesday's bounce: Strong signs that the U.S. housing market is fully returning to health, and confident talk from Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke. The National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales hit the highest total in nearly three years, while Bernanke continued to tell Congress that the central bank's actions are working.
"Our estimates are that we've helped create many private-sector jobs (with lowered interest rates)," Bernanke told lawmakers, later adding, "People are able to buy houses at very low mortgage rates, refinancing at low mortgage rates. People are able to get car loans at low rates."
LinkedIn hits record price as tech gains less than rest of market
Tech stocks were held back by Apple's weakness, with the SV150 -- which includes the largest Silicon Valley technology companies -- gaining less than the larger indexes at 0.7 percent. However, some area tech firms managed notable gains Wednesday.
LinkedIn hit a new record high, surpassing prices reached after a successful earnings report earlier this month. The Mountain View professional-networking company was boosted by positive reports from Evercore Partners and Wunderlich Securities, with Evercore boosting its price target to $200 and Wunderlich establishing coverage of LinkedIn with a price target of $195. Shares closed with a 6.8 percent gain at $168.55 after moving as high as $169.85.
Google (GOOG) gained 1.2 percent to again near the $800 level it first hit last week, while Yahoo (YHOO) neared a 52-week high and closed with a 1.9 percent gain at $21.16. Intel (INTC) built on Tuesday's increase with another gain of 1.7 percent, but Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) upward trajectory stalled out with a 0.1 percent descent.
News was not positive after the bell, when Groupon announced a forecast that didn't sit well with investors and dove more than 20 percent in late trading.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
Up: LinkedIn, Jive, Zynga, Symantec, Advanced Micro Devices, Yelp, Adobe (ADBE), Electronic Arts (ERTS), Splunk, Tesla, Yahoo, NetApp, Nvidia, Intuit (INTU), Intel, Palo Alto Networks, Gilead, VMware, Cisco (CSCO), Juniper, Google, Oracle
Down: Facebook, Apple, SolarCity, HP, SunPower
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 32.61, or 1.04 percent, to 3,162.26
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 175.24, or 1.26 percent, to 14,075.37
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 19.05, or 1.27 percent, to 1,515.99
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.