Apple Inc. (AAPL) Stock Downgraded Ahead Of Earnings For Weak iPhone 7 Sales

Apple Inc. (AAPL) Stock Downgraded Ahead Of Earnings For Weak iPhone 7 Sales
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Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock was little changed in early trading following a rare downgrade from analysts at Barclays. The iPhone maker is scheduled to release its next earnings report on Jan. 31, and the story on Wall Street is weak iPhone 7 sales. Still, some are finding cause to remain positive as consumers seem to be favoring the more expensive iPhone 7 Plus, which of course is a good thing for the average selling price. Barclays’ downgrade follows a price target increase last week.

Apple (AAPL) stock downgraded to Equal-weight

In a research note this morning, Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz went so far as to say that he doesn’t see any big catalysts for Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock for the next 12 months. This implies that he’s not even sure that the iPhone 8 will move the needle on sales enough to boost investor confidence, at least in the early days. Twelve months will bring us past the launch of this year’s iPhone models.

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The analyst downgraded Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock from Overweight to Equal-weight and trimmed his price target by $2 to $117 per share. Part of Moskowitz’s newfound bearishness on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock is less company-specific and more about the decelerating smartphone sales being felt across the industry. Looking out to the long term, however, he feels that the stickiness of the iPhone maker’s ecosystem, big cash stash and tenth anniversary iPhone (widely expected to be the iPhone 8) will serve as a support for investors.

Buy Apple (AAPL) stock on a pullback

Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves said on Monday that investors should think about buying Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock on a “meaningful pullback.” Although he thinks December quarter sales might be in line with consensus, he warned that March quarter sales could decline on the back of the iPhone’s weakest sell-through data ever. However, he maintained his Overweight rating and $127 price target on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock.

UBS analyst Steven Milunovich also has $127 price target paired with a Buy rating on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock, and he said in a note dated Jan. 24 that the CIRP survey suggests a mix shift toward the iPhone 7 Plus and models with more storage in the U.S., both of which are good for the average selling price. The survey indicated that 42% of iPhone sales were the Plus models, a much greater percentage than last year’s 26%. Sixty-two percent of buyers favored the $100 or $200 step-ups in storage, and Android switchers remained stable even as the upgrade rate was strong.

Milunovich is concerned about China and currency headwinds even though he still looks for iPhone growth in the double digits for fiscal 2018. He expects continued declines in China. Further, the higher bill of materials for the iPhone 7 lineup could offset the mix shift toward more expensive models, pressuring the gross margin.

What to expect in Apple’s (AAPL) earnings report

The UBS analyst is roughly in line with consensus on Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s December quarter earnings. He’s looking for $77.8 billion in sales, compared to the consensus of $77.4 billion and toward the high end of the company’s outlook of $76 billion to 78 billion. He pegs the iPhone maker’s earnings per share at $3.24 and its iPhone units at 76 million, compared to the Street’s estimate of 78 million. He estimates an average selling price of $693, compared to the consensus of $685.

Shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock hovered around their opening price, trading at around $120 on Tuesday.

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