Merrill Lynch Raises Apple Target Price to $49

In what is expected to be the first of many analyst recommendations the day after Apple reported its fiscal fourth-quarter profit more than doubled, Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich raised his price target on Apple Computer shares on Thursday to US$49 from $44.

Mr. Milunovich raised the earnings estimate for fiscal 2005 to $1.20 a share from 95 cents a share. Appleis strong earnings in the quarter were "entirely in iPods as Mac sales suffered from continued shortages of the G5 chip from IBM," Mr. Milunovich wrote to clients. "Because we believe in the ihalo effecti of iPod, the positive impact on Mac sales may still be coming."

The ihalo effecti is the latest buzz word among investment analysts for consumers who have bought or are interested in the companyis line of portable music players only to end up buying a Macintosh personal computer as well. Possibly a contributing factor to the ihalo effecti: Tim Cook, Appleis Executive Vice President of World Wide Sales and Operations, told analysts Wednesday that 45% to 50% of CPU buyers at Appleis retail stores are former Windows users or new to the Mac.