Shares of $AAPL rose 3.15 percent on Monday, a day that saw mixed views coming from Wall Street. Barclays, UBS, and Piper Jaffray all offered clients positive outlooks on Apple , while Citi group issued a report saying that iPhone deceleration is likely in the next 6-18 months. Pacific Crest Securities also lowered its target price for the stock.
Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes told his clients on Monday that iPhone 5 and iPad mini both have improved availability heading into the holidays. The analyst called the timing of improved iPhone availability "just about right" to maximize the holiday quarter for the company.
"Our checks back our view that Apple’s sales momentum is picking up heading into December, supported by increased availability and demand for iPhones and iPad minis," the analyst wrote.
He said that checks with Apple's supply chain show that Apple could deliver upside to the December quarter for both the iPhone (up to 50 million units) and iPad mini (up to 8 million units). The analyst's official estimates are for 43.5 million iPhones and 6.5 million iPad minis during the quarter.
Steven Milunovich of UBS reiterated his "Buy" rating on $AAPL, citing "valuation, earnings momentum, and technical factors" as reasons to build one's position in the company.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster released a research note saying that his team's stakeouts at Apple Stores and Microsoft Stores found that Apple is crushing the Windows maker. We're preparing separate coverage of that note, but the short version is that Apple was selling 11 iPads per hour on Black Friday, while Microsoft was selling zero Surface RT tablets per hour.
Mr. Munster is amongst the most bullish of Apple analysts with a price target of $910 per share, well above the consensus target of $760 per share [Correction: But less than the $1,111 we originally reported].
The Less Good, But Better than Bad
Citi initiated coverage of Apple with a team of analysts—Glen Yeung is a chip analyst, Walter Pritchard covers software, and Jim Suva is a hardware analyst. The team initiated its coverage with a "Buy" rating, but the firm's price target for $AAPL is $675, below the consensus mentioned above.
While Citi sees Apple's current quarter as a good one for the company, the team said that iPhone deceleration is likely starting in the next 6-18 months. The analysts said that, "risks for Apple are increasingly coming into focus."
They added, "We assert that Apple's share of the smartphone market is at risk from low-end smartphones and competition from other ecosystems. We see upside from tablets, but this negatively impacts [gross margins]."
The team also noted that $AAPL's recent sell-off—down 17 percent at the time the note was released—is consistent with periodic corrections that have afflicted the stock during its meteoric rise. They said that AAPL has always followed those corrections by rising 25-50 percent over the following year.
Most of AAPL's sell-offs have actually been in the 20 percent range, but $AAPL declined 25.1 percent from its closing high of $702.10 on September 19th to its November 15th close of $525.62. The stock has since rallied 12.2 percent.
On Monday, Apple's stock ended the session at $589.53, a gain of 18.03 (+3.15 percent), on moderate volume of 24.4 million shares.
The Slightly Worse
Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves lowered his already unaggressive price target of $675 per share to $645. Mr. Hargreaves is worried that Apple's cost of goods sold (COGS) will lower Apple's gross margins to 38.8 percent for the December quarter. While higher than Apple's guidance, that estimate is lower than the 40 percent estimate he had in place.
According to his research note, "Declining gross profit dollars per iPhone and volume sales of iPad are driving lower gross profit per unit of Apple product sold."
He believes is will require "exceptional unit volume" for Apple to maintain the kind of growth that has propelled the company's stock valuation during the last several years.
The analyst maintained his "Buy" rating.
*In the interest of full disclosure, the author holds a tiny, almost insignificant share in AAPL stock that was not an influence in the creation of this article.