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Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks about the iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks about the iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Buy an iPad, or buy Apple shares? Add to ...

Barry Ritholtz raises an interesting question on his blog, The Big Picture: If you don't own Apple products, can you be an Apple Inc. investor?

He asks the question because he has noticed that those investors who shy away from Apple shares invariably don't own any of the company's products, like iPhones and iPads.

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"I have heard from various parties that the move in Apple's stock is 'ridiculous', 'overdone', 'insane', 'proof of madness,'" Mr. Ritholtz said, following the company's boffo quarterly earnings report. "Apple's stock price, despite the reasonable price-to-earnings ratio, is 'incontrovertible proof we are now in bubble territory.' When I asked these folks if they own any Apple products, they nearly all say no. 'My kids have an iPod' was the most I got out of any of them."

As Mr. Ritholtz noted, this sentiment echoes the investing approach of Peter Lynch, the world-famous investor who once managed the Fidelity Magellan fund and always professed that investing in what you know gave you an edge over many Wall Street money managers.

As far as tech gadgets go, it seems that owning or at least familiarizing yourself with those gadgets is necessary groundwork before investing in the company that makes them. But this clearly isn't the case with most other companies. Do you have to smoke to invest in a tobacco company? Do you need to own a Ford car to invest in Ford Motor Co.? Do you need to burn coal to invest in a coal producer?

Probably not. Appreciating a product first hand is nice because it lets you understand its relevance in the market. But, of course, that appreciation has little to do with a stock's valuation or the economic backdrop to the company's operations. It can also lead to emotional attachments to stocks, which can encourage investors to make silly moves, like holding on far too long.

In the case of Apple, fans of the company's products sang its praises throughout the 1990s and into the early days of this century. Yet, that praise translated into a depressed share price that hovered at around $10 (U.S.) between 2001 and 2003. Long-term investors made out just fine, of course, but owning Apple products seemed to make little difference.

 
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