Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock became a hot item again last week following reports from Sprint and T-Mobile that demand for the iPhone 7 lineup this year was much better than expected and an improvement from last year. However, some analysts are saying to investors, not so fast, although last week others were quick to raise their price targets on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock and croon over the commentary from the mobile carriers.
UBS raises price target on Apple (AAPL) stock, but…
In a report dated September 20, UBS analyst Steven Milunovich reiterated his Buy rating and increased his price target on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock from $115 to $127 per share. He said early indicators of demand for the iPhone 7 are “encouraging,” based on analysis of data from the UBS Evidence Lab. He said web search indicates that interest in this year’s iPhones is better than it was for the iPhone 6s but not as good as it was for the iPhone 6 in 2014.
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Apple Inc. (AAPL) did say that it has sold out of the initial supply of the iPhone 7 Plus, but the phone’s main competitor, the Samsung Note 7, is being recalled due to problems with the battery exploding. We would also note that the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus received a massive improvement with a dual-lens camera, while its smaller counterpart did not.
…Don’t get carried away yet
Most mobile carriers reported an increase in preorders for the iPhone this year, but Milunovich said that he “wouldn’t get carried away.” He noted that Verizon stated that it isn’t seeing “unusual demand,” and there haven’t been any reports about demand in China where there aren’t aggressive promotions going on like there are in the U.S. He said that ultimately it will come down to how many upgrades Apple Inc. (AAPL) will get out of the “F15 bubble of iPhone buyers.” However, he did increase his upgrade estimate from 41% to 44% based on the T-Mobile and Sprint preorder commentary.
He adds that his firm’s Asia team estimates that procurement plans for the iPhone 7 for fiscal 2017 have increased from 80 million to 89 million with the iPhone 7 Plus being the main driver of that increase. This seems to be in line with what he found with web searches because the procurement number is better than the 87 million Apple ordered for the iPhone 6s but not as good as the 93 million for the iPhone 6.
Apple (AAPL) stock remains predictable
His colleagues in Asia believe that following the weak iPhone 6s cycle, Apple Inc. (AAPL) has become more conservative in procurement so it doesn’t order too many iPhones. Milunovich also suggests that the increase in procurement could be because of mass production being rushed out in three weeks due to strict waterproofing and the complex iPhone 7 Plus camera.
The UBS analyst noted that Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock has been following the typical pattern it follows around iPhone announcement. Historically, it has traded off before the announcements before climbing between the unveiling and actual launch, which came on Friday. If Apple stock continues to follow the usual pattern, he said it could fade over the next couple of weeks before rising again going into the earnings report.
Positive reaction in Apple stock is “premature”
In his September 19 report, JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall also warned about looking on the carrier commentary in too positive of a light, calling the positive reaction in Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock “premature.” He estimates that U.S. iPhone orders will grow 4% year over year for the December quarter, putting them within his sell-through estimate of 69.4 million units. Not only is this estimate below consensus, but he warns that it also looks optimistic compared to the bottom-up modeling from his firm’s Telco team.
Shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock edged higher by as much as 0.18% to $113.78 during regular trading hours on Tuesday.