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Dow Jones Heads Lower as Microsoft Stock Price Target Raised, Apple iPhone 12 Preorder Data Comes in Mixed

By Timothy Green – Oct 19, 2020 at 12:33PM

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A higher price target wasn't enough to boost Microsoft stock, and preorders for Apple's latest iPhone 12 are a mixed bag.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.38%) moved into negative territory by late Monday morning as investors grappled with rising cases of COVID-19 around the country and continued uncertainty over a new economic stimulus bill. While both House Democrats and President Trump support multitrillion-dollar packages, Senate Republicans favor a much smaller, more targeted approach. The Dow was down about 0.3% at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

Shares of Microsoft (MSFT -2.36%) were underperforming the Dow despite an optimistic analyst raising his price target due to the company's cloud computing growth potential. Meanwhile, Apple (AAPL 2.44%) stock treaded water as preorder data for the iPhone 12 came in mixed.

A digital cloud on a black background

Image source: Getty Images.

Microsoft price target boosted on cloud growth

Software and cloud computing giant Microsoft is set to report its fiscal first-quarter results on Oct. 27. When Microsoft last reported in July, the company posted surprisingly strong revenue growth despite the pandemic. Revenue was up 13% in that quarter, driven by the Azure cloud platform, solid Windows OEM sales, and growth in gaming and Surface hardware.

Analysts aren't quite as optimistic about the September quarter, with the average estimate calling for revenue growth of just 8.1%. But analyst Brent Thill of Jefferies is confident enough in the tech giant to boost his price target on the stock ahead of its upcoming report. Jefferies raised its target from $240 to $260 on Monday.

Thill argues that Microsoft is one of the best software companies around, with a durable financial model. He sees the Azure cloud platform continuing to put up solid growth numbers, helping to offset any weakness in on-premise software license sales. Thill expects potentially weak margins this year as Microsoft invests in its business, and he admits the stock trades for a historically high valuation. But those negatives didn't outweigh the positives in the eyes of the analyst.

Shares of Microsoft failed to get a boost from the analyst action on Monday and were down around 0.8% by late morning.

Mixed iPhone 12 preorder data for Apple

The first day of preorders for Apple's new lineup of iPhone 12 smartphones went well, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities. Kuo estimates that Apple sold as many as 2 million devices in the first 24 hours, up from just 800,000 devices for last year's iPhone 11 launch. Demand in China was reportedly strong, particularly for the iPhone 12 Pro.

While this sounds like good news for Apple, Kuo also estimates that the iPhone 12 launch will trail the iPhone 11 launch badly in terms of the first full weekend of preorders. Kuo expects Apple to sell about 9 million iPhone 12 devices in that period, down from 12 million for the iPhone 11.

Part of the problem is that only the base iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are currently available for preorder. The $699 iPhone 12 Mini, priced the same as the base iPhone 11 last year, won't be available for preorder until early November. The cheapest iPhone 12 model available for preorder right now is the $799 base model, and iPhone users looking for an upgrade also have the $399 iPhone SE and the now-$599 iPhone 11 to choose from.

Ultimately, how well Apple's iPhone 12 sells will depend on how much consumers care about 5G, the state of global economies as the COVID-19 pandemic ramps up, and whether or not Congress manages to pass a new economic stimulus bill anytime soon. Shares of Apple were roughly unchanged by late Monday morning.

Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Timothy Green has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Microsoft and recommends the following options: short January 2021 $115 calls on Microsoft and long January 2021 $85 calls on Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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