Rounding Up Last-Minute Analyst Chatter Ahead of Apple Earnings

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) shares are enjoying a solid day today ahead of its fiscal second quarter earnings report. Part of the optimism may be some reassuring analyst notes making the rounds today. It's not all good, though, as there's some renewed skepticism as well.

Avondale Partners analyst John Bright has upgraded the stock from "market perform" to "market outperform," alongside a $600 price target. Even though Apple is undeniably facing some growth deceleration, concerns appear to already be priced in given Apple's current share price.

Once Apple officially partners with China Mobile, which Bright expects later this year, alongside a cheaper iPhone, Apple could return to earnings growth of 10% to 15% next fiscal year. Bright considers Apple oversold, citing its discount relative to peers and the fact that its cash position comprises a third of its market cap right now.

BGC analyst Colin Gillis likewise boosted his rating from "hold" to "buy," even as he reduced his price target from $550 to $500. Gillis also thinks good news is on the horizon, which will prove to be a positive catalyst for shares. The overwhelming pessimism around Apple right now may be dispelled by the upcoming product refresh cycle.

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu is sticking by a "buy" rating and $610 price target, saying low expectations for the June quarter are already represented in current prices. Wu thinks numerous data points are bottoming out.

Amid cautious sentiment is BMO analyst Keith Bachman, who expresses concern over Verizon's iPhone activation figures from last week. The product mix of iPhone 5 units was disappointing to Bachman, and the resulting negative implications for average selling prices are why he's lowering earnings estimates for this fiscal year.

Citigroup analyst Glen Yeung is staying on the sidelines with a "neutral" rating and $480 price target. Yeung predicts that Apple will report on the low end of its guidance, and demand for the iPhone 5 and full-sized iPad is slowing. The analyst is assuming that the iPhone 5S will be delayed until August or September, and tablet competition is putting pressure on the iPad in China.

Investors are now about a day away from Apple's figures for the March quarter. Which of these analysts will be right?

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2013, at 2:04 AM, singaporenick wrote:

    One thing you know for certain-analysts just follow the market pricing and have very little of merit to contribute.

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