Today in Connected Consumer

The New York Times ran a gloomy editorial this morning about investors’ loss of faith in equity markets and the huge outflow of capital from stock funds over the past three years. But don’t tell that to retail brokers, who are reporting 1999-like demand from individual investors for a piece of Facebook’s IPO. The Wall Street Journal even found an 11-year old who wants to bet her college fund on Facebook shares. The fact that Facebook’s bankers have raised the price range for the offering can only fuel the frenzy. Odd then that nearly half of Americans in a survey, including Facebook users, think the social network is a fad that will have a relatively short life cycle. Nearly 60 percent of Facebook users also express little faith that the company will keep the data it collects on them private, and more than half say they never click on the ads or sponsored content that are currently Facebook’s only source of revenue.

Today in Connected Consumer

The Apple rumor mill reached a fevered pitch over the weekend when Apple Insider ran with a rumor¬†Saturday that Apple was in advanced talks to acquire German HDTV maker Loewe. Within hours, Loews was out with a statement saying “there is absolutely nothing to” the report. The statement was issued on a Sunday, however, to the German-language website Heise, so the rebuttal didn’t get as widely circulated¬†as the original report, so Loewe’s shares spiked in early trading Monday. Presumably, the stock will now give back all or most of those gains. But the whole episode raises another interesting question. Loewe’s shares had been depressed prior to the Apple rumor, in part on the continued “difficult environment” for HDTV makers. Over in Japan, in fact, the old-guard TV brands, from Panasonic to Sony, are collapsing in the face of Chinese and Korean competition and plunging prices. It’s certainly not out of the question that one or more of the old guard would be looking to unload its TV business to somebody looking to ramp up quickly in the TV business. Food for thought, anyway.

Today in Connected Consumer

For all the equity value Steve Jobs delivered to owners of Apple stock over the years, Jobs himself was never particularly solicitous toward shareholders. He hoarded cash, eventually accumulating a bankroll of nearly $100 billion, and imperiously refused to placate calls for Apple to return some of it to shareholders through a dividend or stock repurchase program. And for years, shareholders largely accepted their low yield on that cash as the price of genius. With Jobs gone, however, Apple’s new leader, Tim Cook, is starting to behave like a mere mortal CEO. This morning the company announced it will for the first time begin paying a quarterly dividend of $2.65 share and will spend up to $10 billion buying back Apple shares. While some complained the $45 billion cash-dispersal was too small, sending Apple shares down briefly after the announcement, the stock rebounded smartly and was up nearly 11 percent in midday trading. The more interesting question about Apple, though, may be whether acting more like other companies in catering to Wall Street will make it less like Apple. Tim Cook insisted Monday that won’t happen but the Rubicon may already have been crossed.

Today in Connected Consumer

On Wall Street, there are momentum stocks and then there is Netflix. Its shares’ year-long run up to a peak near $300 in July seem fueled as much by the Netflix’s “cool” factor, and the service’s popularity among stock traders, as with the company’s fundamentals. That irrational exuberance naturally turned to irrational panic when the company stumbled in the fall, sending its shares plunging to a low of $70. With yesterday’s earnings report, which included a gain of 610,000 U.S. subscribers, the bulls were charging once again. Shares of Netflix were up nearly 23 percent in early trading Thursday as traders piled back in.

Is the tech IPO window closed? Not so fast.

The stock market’s ongoing sell-off has many people wondering whether the wave of tech company initial public offerings will soon sputter to a stop. But some financial industry experts say the current market volatility does not necessarily mean that the IPO window is closed.

Apple shares close above $400

Apple investors rejoice: The company’s stock closed at an all-time high Tuesday. Shares of the iPhone and iPad maker hit $400 a few times Monday but closed at $398.50. Tuesday shares opened at the $400 mark and actually peaked in the morning at $404.48.