After a jump of about 85% last year, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) continue to move higher. They closed this week up 8.54% to $318.73, though they traded above that number earlier in the day. Apple has handily beaten the Dow Jones industrial average this year. It is up 2.84% to 29,348.10.
The reasons for the rise so far are little different for those of late last year.
The most recent catalyst for the increase is a report that iPhone sales rose almost 20% last year in China, the world’s largest smartphone market by far. Well-known Apple expert Gene Munster, a Loup Ventures managing partner, said he expects the stock to rise another 50%. Other analysts echoed that sentiment last week, although their price targets were not as aggressive.
Apple will report earnings on the 28th of this month. Apple’s most recent earnings statement left a lasting, positive impression with investors. The company posted earnings of $3.05 per share, up from $2.94 last year. Forecasts for the holiday quarter were strong. The iPhone 11 was only available for part of last quarter, so its sales results should improve in the current one. Some experts believe that Apple TV+ will do well in the streaming wars as it adds new, original content. The new U.S. trade deal with China means that Apple will not have to pay more for certain components in its products. The levies could have added $150 to some of its computers and smartphones. There are rumors that Apple will release as many as six models of the iPhone 12, some of which will work with new, superfast 5G networks.
Apple’s share price increase rode the back of two developments for most of the last year. The new iPhone 11 did better than expected, although the numbers are speculation by experts and not data provided by Apple. The other is that Apple’s bet on services as an alternative to flagging hardware sales produced unexpectedly robust results. Its services business numbers crushed expectations for the latest quarter. Its revenue set a record at $12.5 billion, against Apple’s total company revenue of $63 billion. Services as a percentage of total revenue are expected to continue to rise.
The release of the iPhone 11 in September was the tonic that the stock needed. Shares sold down sharply in mid-summer after Apple announced its earnings. The mainstay of revenue had continued to weaken as the iPhone X series did poorly, particularly in China. The trade war also dragged on the stock, as anxiety about Apple supply chain interruptions grew. Apple sources many parts of the iPhone from companies in China. iPhone 11 sales were enough to alleviate any worry along these lines.
The launch of Apple TV+ is critical to the new strategy. Apple already has a huge music store. Its app store is by far the largest in the industry. By some estimates, more than 130 billion apps have been downloaded since the store began. Many experts believe that app sales cannot continue to grow at rates they have over the past decade. So video streaming becomes an essential part of the expansion of this multimedia business.
All this means that Apple’s bet on TV is absolutely critical. At $4.99 for the first month, after a seven-day free trial, the service is aggressively priced compared to industry leaders Amazon and Netflix, which have price points of $12.99 a month. Apple’s management has gambled that, although its library of content is limited compared to the leaders, the low price, the Apple brand and the hundreds of millions of iPhones, iPads and Macs in the world are a huge base to which it can market its streaming service. A JPMorgan analyst recently predicted that Apple TV+ and Apple’s ad business would add $25 billion in revenue in 2025.
Confidence has grown that Apple’s new iPhone 11 and services strategy is the right formula. Its market cap is back above a trillion, up to nearly $1.2 trillion, and it recently was named the most valuable brand in the world again.