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Analysts continue to jockey into bullish positions ahead of next week's iPhone 5 announcement.
Yesterday it was Wedbush waxing positive on Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) by upping its price target from $800 to $885. Today it's J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz asking for more cowbell.
Moskowitz was already bullish on the world's most valuable tech company. His "overweight" rating on the company sticks. However, the analyst is jacking up his estimates and his price target on Apple.
Looking out to fiscal 2013, which kicks off next month, Moskowitz sees Apple selling 167.9 million iPhones (up from his earlier target of 147.4 million) and 91.2 million iPads (up from 79.1 million). He's also bumping his estimates for the current quarter up to 24.2 million iPhones and 18.8 million iPads.
Naturally, more smartphones and tablets will result in more money, and that leads Moskowitz to new bottom-line projections calling for Apple to earn $44.07 a share this fiscal year and $52.27 come fiscal 2013.
His earlier price target of $675 -- stale in light of Apple's close just pennies away at $674.97 -- has been ratcheted up to $770.
Even $770 may be too low
It's true that even bullish analysts aren't always on the same page. J.P. Morgan's new mark of $770 is far less than the $885 Wedbush is targeting. Heck, it's even less than the $800 Wedbush was previously expecting.
But that's fine. What's so bad about $770? It represents a welcome 14% ascent from where investors are now.
However, it's also perfectly acceptable for Apple bulls to brush that off as too low. After all, given Moskowitz's new profit forecast -- which is still lower than the Wall Street average -- Apple at $770 would price the company at less than 15 times forward earnings. Back out Apple's hefty cash hoard, and the multiple gets even lower.
Skepticism is a good thing
It's naturally dangerous to assume that Apple will be growing the way it has over the past decade. Things can change. We've seen Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android gain global market share in smartphones, and there are no guarantees that the iPhone 5 will do any better with the baton than what the iPhone 4S has done over the past year.
This is also a week that finds Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) introducing new phones running Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) updated Windows Phone 8 and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) hoping to raise the bar in entry-level tablets with a new Kindle Fire.
It's brilliantly convenient that Apple will get the final word next week, but sending out media invites with a shadowy "5" isn't a lock for success.
Live and learn
Why are analysts rallying to lavish Apple with bullish praise this week? We still don't know everything that Amazon will reveal tomorrow. We aren't sure what a desperate Microsoft can do when it has tens of billions of dollars to throw at its smartphone strategy. We don't know if the iPhone 5 will come with teleportation, underwater-mortgage-debt forgiveness, and X-ray glasses.
Let's blame history. Betting against Apple has historically been a bad bet on this side of the millennium. Arguing that Apple will grow to become the country's first trillion-dollar company is a lot safer than arguing against it. Even without Steve Jobs -- or the fact that Apple has come up uncharacteristically short in half of the quarters since Jobs passed away last year -- the smart bet remains to line up on the bullish side of the class act of Cupertino.
Reiterating bullish calls and bumping targets higher is one way to avoid looking like a buffoon. Pitching your tent early -- before the non-financial media begins gushing about Apple next week -- is the only way to do it right. The Fool's new premium research report on Apple details the opportunities and challenges in store for its shareholders. It's also been updated to include new iPhone 5 details! Check it out now.