Why the Apple Strong Buy Upgrade Is Not as Impressive as It Sounds

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is getting a big bounce on Monday after an upgrade from Raymond James. This was covered in our top analyst upgrades and downgrades on Monday morning, but we wanted to take a closer look since this pertains to big upside, the dividend, iPhone shipments and many other key metrics driving Apple shares. Tavis McCourt of Raymond James raised his rating to Strong Buy from Outperform, and the price target is $600 on the stock.

While this implies 50% upside, investors may want to pay attention here that the $600 price target was maintained rather than raised. McCourt told CNBC on Monday that the iPhone sales estimates were lifted to 28 million from 27 million. The main basis for the upgrade is moving into phase II in mobile computing as the expansion of smartphones and the ecosystem into TVs, cars, appliances and other uses not currently being thought of.

The upgrade also puts Apple as likely capturing a larger market share of profits as mobile computing moves beyond just smartphones and tablets. McCourt thinks that Apple subscriber numbers will rise and he thinks that Apple has a share price support at $390 to $400. One last area was China, where McCourt sees lots of upside particularly if a deal with China Mobile is reached.

Apple shareholders will welcome any gains at the moment. We would be a little less excited about this call. If an analyst raises an already positive Outperform rating up to a more positive Strong Buy, rating it sounds very impressive. Even upside of 50% to $600 sounds impressive. Unfortunately, that upside call seems muted when you hear that the price target remains the same as it had been. This upgrade sounds and feels somewhat like when analysts would “pound the table” in defense of stocks, but investors need to know that the calls were not always any more accurate than any other analyst calls.

Apple shares are trading up 3.4% at $410.20, after closing at $396.53 on Friday. Its 52-week trading range is $385.10 to $705.07, and the consensus price target is $538.74.