Apple: Zacks’ Bull of the Day Play

Apple (AAPLAnalyst Report) reports Tuesday after the market close and analysts have been busy this month revamping their iPhone sales projections and consequently raising their EPS estimates for the quarter. And that’s why it became a Zacks #1 Rank Strong Buy again last week.

Morgan Stanley technology analyst Katy Huberty issued a report last week in which she bumped her iPhone sales estimate for the holiday quarter from 62 million units to between 67 and 69 million.

As if those record-breaking sales weren’t enough, the average selling price (ASP) of the world’s most popular smartphone is expected to rise 5% to $667. This performance in a world of shrinking handset margins is due to two trends the analyst expects to continue this year: higher demand for the higher-priced iPhone 6 Plus and more customers picking devices with larger storage capacity.

Of course, Apple relies on more than iPhones for its massive revenues which are expected to bust through the $200 billion mark this year. From…

Some 5.8 million Macs are thought to have been sold in the just-completed quarter, which would mark a new record high for the recently-resurgent computer lineup. Folding in a predicted 22 million iPad sales on top of older product lines, such as the iPod, would bring revenue to nearly $69 billion on 38.7 percent gross margin for the firm.

Here Comes the Watch

UBS analysts meanwhile issued the results from a survey they conducted that showed that a large percentage of current Apple customers were likely to purchase the Apple Watch, which is set to be released this quarter. The firm reiterated its buy rating and $125 price target for AAPL shares.

According to, Huberty believes the “iWatch” is coming soon. She argues that Wall Street remains “too pessimistic” about the Apple Watch’s potential, and forecasts shipments of 3 million units adding $1.4 billion in revenue for the March quarter.

The Must-Have Ecosystem

Oppenheimer analysts recently raised their Q1 FY15 (first quarter calendar 2015) EPS estimate from $1.99 to $2.16 and their full-year revenue projection from $220.9 billion to $226.7 billion, at the high end of the Street range. They also reaffirmed their $130 price target. Here were two interesting summary notes in their January 20 report…

CES Impression: Our trip to CES 2015 confirmed our view that Apple Watch is unlikely to have competition from other wearable and smartwatch makers. We believe its combination of creative user interface and hardware design will pose multiple-year leadership over competition, in similar ways to the iPhone.

Spring Launches: We expect AAPL to release Apple Watch and an updated iPad of differentiated display size by March. We believe the enhanced product portfolio will effectively leverage Apple’s overwhelming ecosystem advantage and help the company to address a wider consumer and enterprise audience.

China Calling

Cantor Fitzgerald analysts, who have a $143 price target on AAPL, put out a note last week about the upgrade to 3G and 4G phones based on subscriber statistics for all three China-based carriers for the month of December. Total 3G/4G subs in the country grew by 45% in 2014. Here’s what they concluded…

As part of the 4G expansion, we believe Apple is well positioned to benefit from this shift with larger iPhones (i.e., iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus), and we expect China to be a more important part of the Apple story in 2015. We continue to believe that Apple represents one of the more attractive stories in large-cap tech, trading at just 11x (ex-cash) our CY:15 EPS projection.

This fits with the quarterly report from Skyworks Solutions (SWKSAnalyst Report) last week whose business is strong in multiple areas involving mobile communication and wireless connectivity. Their ability to serve competing customers like Apple and Samsung in China and meet the high demand for more radio frequencies and more complex technology solutions is expected to keep growing for several years.

While some analysts would like to “call the top” in iPhone sales, the must-have ecosystem might keep breaking sales records even after the stellar report we get this week.

Disclosure: I own AAPL and SWKS shares for the Zacks FTM Trader.

Kevin Cook is a Senior Stock Strategist for Zacks where he runs the Follow The Money Trader.


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