BUSINESS
09/24/2012 07:59 am ET | Updated Sep 24, 2012

Peak Apple: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Thing One: Peak Apple: This is what it looks like at the top.

Apple looks like it can't lose. It just rolled out its latest unnecessary distraction, the iPhone 5, which I only call "unnecessary" and a "distraction" because I can't afford it and am going to cling to my iPhone 4S and my guns out of bitterness and envy. Meanwhile, people are lining up for iPhone 5s at random hours at random stores all over America, whether they're selling iPhones or not, shuffling stubbornly against closed storefront gates in the predawn murk, eyes glazed and a thin rope of drool hanging from their lips. Apple's stock last week cruised past $700 a share, and today the august Ye Olde New York Times speculates that Apple's market capitalization might some day rise to $1 trillion, making it the first trillion-dollar company ever in America.

But there are some signs that all is not well in Apple's paradise. First there was the whole debacle with Apple Maps, in which Apple put its dispute with Google over the needs of its own customers, forcing a useless, hastily devised app on them. And now it looks like it might be at risk of having a bit of a spat with retailers, who have found themselves woefully short of iPhone 5s, at a time when they're stacked high at Apple stores, the Wall Street Journal writes. This might help drive traffic to Apple stores, but it does not build goodwill with other retailers. Late last week, Apple lost a patent case against rival Samsung in a German court.

Meanwhile, Apple risks another spot of public-relations unpleasantness this morning, after 2,000 workers rioted at a Foxconn plant in China that assembles iPhone 5s and other devices. The cause of the riot was unclear; Reuters says there are reports that the riot began in response to security guards beating workers.

Update: Investors this morning also got the news that Apple had sold more than 5 million iPhone 5s in the first three days of sales. How did investors respond to this seemingly great news? They sold the stock hard: It initially tumbled more than 2 percent in early trading and was recently down about 1 percent. This is a sign of just how high expectations are for Apple.

Apple can brush off any one of these issues. But these rumblings of discontent come as the stock is being steadily priced for a world of perfect harmony. Investors seem to be ignoring some of the early warning signs of decay, notes Tim Wu at the New Republic, including the fact that the iPhone has been steadily losing market share to Samsung for years and that Apple has responded by taking Samsung to court -- often the sign of a company that has run out of fresh ideas. Buyer beware.

Thing Two: LIBOR's European Vacation: Regulators from around the world are testifying today before the European Parliament about the critical short-term interest rate known as LIBOR, which is constantly at risk of being manipulated as hard as it possibly can be by the banks that set it. The European Union is set to vote on some harsh penalties for interest-rate manipulation, including possible jail time for bankers, Bloomberg writes.

Thing Three: Preparing Quietly For Obamacare: You often hear tough talk from states run by Republicans about how they're not going to let any gosh darn Obamacare into their state. But those same states are quietly preparing to let Obamacare into their state after all, The New York Times writes: "Given that the health care overhaul remains a lightning rod — just last week, Oklahoma revised a lawsuit against it — even the most tentative discussions about carrying it out in Republican states tend to take place behind closed doors or 'underground,' as the leader of a health care advocacy group in the South put it."

Thing Four: Everybody Loves Daniel Tarullo: Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo happens to be the top banking regulator at the Federal Reserve. And what do you know, bankers just love to talk to him. According to the Wall Street Journal, Tarullo is constantly being hounded by bank executives about regulations: "The top banking regulator at the Federal Reserve met in person or talked on the phone more than 60 times during one recent year with top U.S. bank executives. That is five times more often than bankers spoke with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Even U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met face to face with top bank executives less frequently during his tumultuous first year in office, when the financial crisis was raging."

Thing Five: Oh, Look, France And Germany Are Fighting Again: Remember how we might have said the European debt crisis was all solved? Ha, yes, funny thing, maybe not so much? Germany and France are tussling again about the terms of a possible European banking union, Bloomberg writes. Meanwhile, Spain is taking its sweet time asking for the bailout everybody knows it needs, raising the risks of market contagion, Reuters writes. Meanwhile, German business confidence fell unexpectedly in September, according to Bloomberg. This thing's not over by a long shot.

Thing Six: Super PACs Falling Flat: The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision ushered in a new, horrifying era of free corporate spending on campaigns, filling the coffers of Super PACS that many people warned would ruin democracy. Reality, at least in this election, may be less terrifying, the Wall Street Journal writes. Despite $250 million in spending by Super PACS, "signs are few that super PACs have had the major impact that both supporters and critics predicted. The flood of spending doesn't appear to have significantly influenced voter opinion in key states in the presidential contest or in top congressional races." Of course, that's just what Super PACs want us to think, isn't it? Oh, never mind us and our unlimited campaign cash. We're practically useless!

Thing Seven: Freedom's Just Another Word For Charging You An Arm And A Leg: Apparently, like lunch, there's no such thing as a free checking account. Robin Sidel of the Wall Street Journal writes that supposedly "free" checking accounts are now more expensive than ever, with higher minimum balances and a smorgasbord of fees that banks are using to avoid actually giving any "free" accounts to anybody.

Thing Seven And One Half: Bittersweet Day: On this day in 1896, F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. On this day in 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field. And on this day in 1991, Nirvana released "Nevermind."

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Heard On The Tweets:

@GhostPanther: Watching Steelers game & one of the replacement refs is wearing Crocs.

@MattZeitlin: It's almost like the players know the awful refs are less likely to throw flags on illegal hits!

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