Why Analysts Are More Positive About Apple Than Its Earnings Reaction Suggests

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was last seen trading down after its earnings report was deemed a disappointment. Perhaps what should have been considered was that Apple was still the best performing Dow Jones Industrial Average stock of 2017.

While some investors have focused on revenues and while some have talked about a long-term directional innovation gap, the reality is that this should have been a throwaway quarter. Its increased capital return plan, and its 10% dividend hike, have so far not garnered much attention, as Apple will now spend $210 billion rather than $175 billion on share buybacks.

24/7 Wall St. has compiled many analyst notes on Apple after the earnings report. Some analysts were cautious, but many have also kept a positive bias. In fact, some are even more bullish on Apple now.

Apple has faced some gross margin pressure versus the past. Apple said that it sees gross margin of 37.5% to 38.5% in the coming quarter, compared with about 38.9% in the second quarter of this year and 39.4% a year earlier. Still, Apple’s cash balance is north of $256 billion now.

Merrill Lynch’s Wamsi Mohan reiterated a Buy rating and $155 price objective. The firm noted some overhangs from Qualcomm and from margins, but the investment rationale said:

We rate Apple a Buy on potential upside from 1) Continued long-term opportunity in China, 2) potential share gains from the release of a lower-end iPhone, 3) strength in the upcoming iPhone 8 cycle, 4) optionality in cash balance, revenue sources like Apple Pay, Apple Watch, home/health kit, etc., that will take time to mature.

Credit Suisse reiterated its Outperform rating and kept its $170 price target. The firm noted that the iPhone super-cycle is just around the corner. The firm’s Kulbinder Garcha noted that Apple’s services thesis remains intact and that Apple’s capital return was raised as expected — Apple increased the capital return program by $50 billion to some $300 billion by March 2019.

BTIG has a Buy rating and raised its target to $184 from an already bullish $165. It noted that the headwind of slow iPhone sales was dwarfed by services, the smartwatch, the Mac and accessory sales.

Canaccord Genuity maintained its Buy rating and $165 target price, noting that iPhone 8 sales are likely to exceed the iPhone 6 cycle sales and should have stronger average selling prices.

Cowen has an Outperform rating and raised its target price to $160 from $155.

FBN Securities reiterated its Outperform rating, but its Shebly Seyrafi raised Apple’s price target to $160 from $155. The report noted that Other (which includes the Apple Watch) revenue grew by 31% and was 27% above
consensus. Also cited was that iPad and Mac beat consensus, while Apple’s services continues to grow well.

Independent Research reiterated its Buy rating and raised its target to $175 from $170.

Maxim reiterated its Buy rating and raised its target to $171 from $163.

Mizuho has a Buy rating and raised its target to $160 from $150, noting that the light iPhone sales may take a backseat to 18% services sales growth.

Raymond James has an Outperform rating and raised its target to $163 from $159, noting that the quarter and guidance actually should have been viewed better than what had been feared.

RBC Capital Markets maintained its Outperform rating and $157 price target. The guidance was noted as slightly under consensus for June, but that should not hurt the narrative. The iPhone super-cycle and the coming repatriation efforts will pay off big, as well as its services growth.

Apple shares were last seen trading down 1.2% at $145.75 on more than 14 million shares after just an hour or so of trading. Apple’s 52-week trading range is $89.47 to $148.09, and its consensus analyst target price had been $148.96 before the news.