Today: Apple (AAPL) shares reach record prices for the fifth consecutive session, as iPhone 5 and iOS 6 reviews begin to roll in. Also: Stocks move only slightly higher despite good news on the real estate market, but social-networking stocks take a big bounce.
iPhone reviews positive despite distaste for Maps app, Apple stock hits records again
Apple shares reached record highs for intraday price and closing price for a fifth consecutive day Wednesday, as media outlets began releasing reviews of the company's newest iteration of its popular smartphone, the iPhone 5, and the Cupertino company released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6.
Apple shares, which climbed higher than $700 for the first time in Tuesday's trading session, rose as high as $703.99 Wednesday and closed with a slight daily increase at $702.10, both record highs. Apple has now set new highs in every session since the day before it announced the iPhone 5 on Sept. 14, with shares increasing 4.8 percent in that time.
Fervor for the newest iPhone continued to increase, as full reviews of the device began to appear. While some media outlets released reviews directly after last week's unveiling, based on time spent engaging with the device at the San Francisco event,
The New York Times' David Pogue: "If you have an iPhone 4S, getting an iPhone 5 would mean breaking your two-year carrier contract and paying a painful penalty; maybe not worth. ... But if you've had the discipline to sit out a couple of iPhone generations -- wow, are you in for a treat."
CNET's Scott Stein: "The iPhone 5 completely rebuilds the iPhone on a framework of new features and design, addressing its major previous shortcomings. It's absolutely the best iPhone to date, and it easily secures its place in the top tier of the smartphone universe."
The Guardian's Charles Arthur: "What really catapults the iPhone 5 past its rivals is the combination of features and services. In particular Siri, the voice-driven "assistant," is transformed ... into a real virtual assistant."
Bloomberg News' Rich Jaroslovsky: "The new model lacks any single gee-whiz breakthrough, like the Siri voice assistant introduced with the iPhone 4S. But the new version brings it up- to-date in a host of areas, particularly speed, without sacrificing the things that made it special in the first place."
Time's Harry McCracken: "It's the most polished version yet of what was already easily the most polished phone on the market."
The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg: "I've been testing the new iPhone for nearly a week and I like it a lot and can recommend it, despite a few negatives, such as a new maps app."
The new mapping application will reach more than just iPhone 5 purchasers, however, as it is included in iOS 6, which began landing on Apple's mobile devices Wednesday. Reviews of the newest version of the company's operating system were not as kind as many of the reviews of its hardware, with the mapping app targeted by many as inferior to the Google (GOOG) product it replaced. Gizmodo published an array of screenshots showing Apple's 3D maps resembling "an apocalyptic horror show," and Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt summed up the reviews by saying "Compared with Google Maps, Apple's map app sucks."
According to the Mercury News, owners of Apple's mobile devices should just accept the operating system despite its flaws.
"On the whole, iOS 6, as Apple has dubbed the update, is worth downloading. It's faster and offers some compelling new features. But be prepare to be frustrated. Some of the new features are incomplete and one -- the overhauled Maps application -- is buggy and disappointing."
Wall Street fails to bounce despite positive news on housing market
Wall Street held pretty steady Wednesday overall, despite excellent news for the housing market, with reports showing that existing-home sales and new-home construction hit two-year highs in August.
The Federal Reserve is purchasing billions in bonds in an attempt to boost the U.S. economy, but the housing market seems to be doing pretty well on its own -- the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that homes sold in August at a rate not seen since May 2010, and the Commerce Department said ground was broken on new homes at the fastest pace since April 2010.
"We have a real housing recovery taking root, and that has positive implications for the broader economy," BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri told AP. "If home prices continue to rise, so, too, will household wealth and consumer confidence."
News like that usually sparks Wall Street, but continuing fears about the global economy tempered excitement and kept gains from surpassing 0.2 percent for the three major U.S. stock indexes.
"The market is at a bit of a conundrum," JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist for TD Ameritrade, said. "There are just constantly these mixed signals about what's going on."
Social-networking stocks get unexpected bump on eve of Facebook hearing
While indexes failed to move much higher, Silicon Valley's suffering social-networking stocks received some needed relief Wednesday, with Facebook closing at a seven-week high after a substantial bump.
Facebook has steadily declined since its record-breaking initial public offering -- which nearly halved cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's worth, according to the Forbes 400 listings released Wednesday -- but found relief from its most recent bout of weakness with a 6.5 percent bump Wednesday. Facebook closed at $23.29, its highest closing price since July 27, on the eve of a court hearing in which the Menlo Park company seeks to consolidate investors' lawsuits dealing with its botched IPO.
Facebook's social-networking brethren followed suit, with online-gaming partner Zynga increasing 4.1 percent, consumer-reviews site Yelp rising 3.8 percent and LinkedIn gaining 0.9 percent.
Other tech stocks weren't as fortunate, as the SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies grew less than 0.1 percent Wednesday. Adobe (ADBE) gained 1.7 percent ahead of its earnings report, but a weaker-than-expected forecast caused most of that increase to disappear in late trading. Intuit (INTU) continued to suffer from CEO Brad Davis's iffy outlook given Tuesday, with the stock declining 1.2 percent Wednesday.
Silicon Valley tech stocks
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 4.82, or 0.15 percent, to 3,182.62
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Up 13.32, or 0.1 percent, to 13,577.96
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Up 1.73, or 0.12 percent, to 1,461.05
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.