Don't look now, but Apple
The stock has closed above $600 for nine consecutive trading days. The last time that happened was back in April, when the stock hit its all-time high. If the shares manage to stay above $600 on Monday, it will be a new record.
But why are we talking about $600 as if it's a floor? It's really more scintillating to talk about Apple's ceiling.
A new optimist
We've seen analysts chime in with price targets as high as $1,111 in recent months, though most of the marks are in the triple digits. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers initiated coverage on the world's most valuable tech company on Thursday with a "buy" rating. His target is $825, and he's not even one of the more bullish Wall Street watchers.
The $155.07 billion in revenue and $43.48 a share profit that he's modeling for this fiscal year is just short of the market average calling for $44.13 a share in earnings on $155.9 billion in revenue in fiscal 2012. His fiscal 2013 targets, though -- eyeing net income of $53.01 a share on $195.8 billion in revenue -- is just ahead of where his peers are perched.
What's making him so ho-hum about this fiscal year's final quarter yet so upbeat about the year that lies ahead?
Rakers delved into Apple's SEC filing for its fiscal third quarter, exploring the iEverything company's off-balance sheet moves. Between the third-party manufacturing and component purchase commitments -- not to mention the company's substantial inventory prepayments outstanding -- he reasons that Apple is loading up on product like never before.
Whether this means Apple has big plans for the iPhone 5 or that the ballyhooed Apple smart television is about to become a reality in the next quarter or two, it's clear the tech bellwether is ramping up production to satisfy what it sees as booming consumer demand in the near future.
Supply is just half of the supply-and-demand equation
Even Apple can't assume that whatever it touches will turn to gold. Mac sales have slowed to a crawl, and the company's iPod business is in decline.
It also can't rule out the competition. Google's
Google is also making another run at the smart-television market with a fortified Google TV push. Yes, the world's largest search engine fell embarrassingly flat on its face the first time out, but Google's credibility in consumer tech has been restored with the runaway success of Android.
Apple's iPhone 5 will also face a hungrier Microsoft
Research In Motion
There are other players, but no real serious contenders. Apple's path to pushing all of its ordered gadgetry out to consumers really only needs to overcome the fast-moving Google and Mr. Softy's grumbling stomach.
That's not as easy as it sounds, but it's the first step toward breaking through the $700 ceiling, the $800 ceiling, and then ultimately Rakers' $825 mark before moving on to new structures.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.