Why Cowen Likes Apple So Much Now in Its Analyst Upgrade

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) may have been at the center of the FBI fight for the iPhone unlock scandal, but don’t bother telling that to investors. The FBI saga is over, at least for now. And Apple is now coming out of bear market territory. An analyst upgrade was driving Apple shares even higher on Wednesday morning.

Cowen raised Apple’s official rating to Outperform from Market Perform, after having been on the sidelines for quite some time. Cowen also raised its price target to $135 from $125 in the upgrade.

While the upgrade drove shares higher on the reaction, investors should consider that most analysts already had an Outperform or Buy rating bias going into this upgrade. Apple’s consensus analyst price target has drifted lower since the start of 2016, and that consensus target was $134.08 going into the call. When 24/7 Wall St. ran its bullish and bearish case for Apple in 2016, the consensus analyst target was up at $148.00, and Apple closed out 2015 at $105.26, without adjusting for dividends.

Timothy Arcuri, Cowen’s analyst covering Apple, is excited about a return to growth as the iPhone 7, which is expected this fall, should be a larger hit than the last smaller phone upgrade cycle. Arcuri also said that he believes that analyst estimates have bottomed out.

Arcuri thinks that the iPhone 7 upgrade cycle should benefit from the users of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners upgrading their phones after two years. Another boost is the rumor (or news, depending) that Apple is working on a new design with an AMOLED display of 5.8 inches for a launch in 2017.

Arcuri believes that a new design will let Apple make its next generation of iPhones with new form factors. One such expectation would be an edge to edge display to create more screen space without increasing the size of the phone. His report said:

Flex OLED gives Apple a key new degree of freedom on product design, while 2017 adoption provides a bridge to a new cycle of innovation that should accelerate in 2018 and beyond.

Another boost here is Apple’s market value: trading at close to a 25% discount to large cap technology peers, and closer to a 30% discount relative to the S&P 500 Index.

24/7 Wall St. would point out more than just the Cowen call from Wednesday. This week RBC Capital Markets predicted that Apple could be on the verge of increasing its share buyback and dividend massively to keep returning cash flow to its shareholders. Apple also had three positive analyst calls in the prior week, which all cited different reasons for being positive.

Apple’s shares were up 2.1% at $109.95 in mid-morning trading on Wednesday. That puts Apple almost halfway up its 52-week range of $92.00 to $134.54. Apple shares are down 18.0% from the peak, and they are up 19.5% from the low.

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