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Institutional ownership of AAPL stock dropped 4% in Q2 2013

Institutional investors appeared to have lost some faith in Apple's performance last quarter, as a new examination shows that their holdings in the iPhone maker dropped 4 percent over the period.

The second quarter of this year marked the third quarterly drop in institutional ownership of Apple shares, according to a FactSet report cited Monday by MarketWatch. How solid a trend last quarter's four percent drop represents, though, is uncertain due to what appears to be a steady rebound in the company's share price.

Apple shares dropped 10.4 percent over the second quarter to bottom out at $396.50, one of the company's lowest prices in years. Since then, though, shares have rebounded by 28 percent, and currently sit above $500.

AAPL saw a boost recently from the announcement by Carl Icahn that he was taking a roughly $1.5 billion stake in Apple, saying that the Cupertino company was "extremely undervalued." FactSet's figures predate Icahn's announcement, raising some questions as to the degree to which that institutional holdings trend is still applicable given the turnaround.

A number of investors have become very cautious on Apple in recent months, even given the company's strong profitability. Competition from Google's Android and other phone manufacturers, the reasoning goes, could gradually marginalize Apple at the expense of those profits. Wall Street has long called for Apple to introduce a cheaper iPhone or to bring out new, innovative products to spark growth again.

The past few weeks, though, have seen increasing evidence that Apple will at least debut a lower-cost iPhone in early September, a fact that has encouraged some investors. Additionally, Apple announced earlier this year a dividend program, a move thought by some to be aimed at putting a bottom under AAPL, which at the time was hemorrhaging value.

Still, institutional investors may hold off on repurchasing Apple stock until they see more of what the company has in store. In April, Apple's largest active shareholder cut its stake by 10 percent. At the same time, institutional investors grew their shares of Microsoft by 2.9 percent and of Google by 1.7 percent.