Apple Could Lose Ground in the Fourth Quarter
Dow component Apple Inc. (AAPL) posted an all-time high on Wednesday following an analyst upgrade, lifting its 2021 year-to-date return to 16.4%. Bullish summer sentiment throughout the big tech universe has underpinned this uptick, which is also feeding on positive reaction to the iPhone 12 Pro, released in the October 2020. However, there are technical dents in the icon’s shiny armor, raising odds that bears will take control in the fourth quarter.
Strong Upgrade Cycle
Analysts estimate that Apple has added 3% market share in China at the expense of Huawei, which now controls about 8% of sales. Here in the United States, telecom providers AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), and T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) have restarted aggressive promotions to existing customers, generating a positive impact on upgrade rates. Growing competition for 5G phones should force these companies to extend promotions well into the iPhone 13 product cycle.
Wolfe Research analyst Jeff Kvaal upgraded Apple to ‘Peer Perform’ on Wednesday, noting “we lift our FY22 iPhone unit/ASP assumptions from 228mn/$824 to 232mn/$833 given well-aligned US promotions and ongoing share gains. This translates into 4.6% sales growth and EPS of $5.85 (consensus 3.3%/$5.64). Recent PC results indicate demand remains well ahead of supply. We consider both products on a permanently higher trajectory as ~50% of shipments through the pandemic have been to new users”.
Wall Street and Technical Outlook
Wall Street consensus stands at an ‘Overweight’ rating after 2020’s historic 80% return, based upon 27 ‘Buy’, 5 ‘Overweight’, 9 ‘Hold’, 1 ‘Underweight’, and 1 ‘Sell’ recommendation. Price targets currently range from a low of $90 to a Street-high $190 while the stock is set to open Thursday’s session about $15 below the median $168 target. Closing the distance into the median target could be tougher than it looks, given technical red flags.
Apple broke out above the January 2020 high at a split-adjusted 81.96 and entered an historic advance that stalled in the upper 130s in September. The stock has added just 16 points in the last 12 months, posting an all-time high at 154.98 on Wednesday. The rally has nearly reached the trendline of rising highs over that period, exposing hidden resistance. More importantly, buying pressure has gone to sleep, slumping well below October 2020 and January 2021 peaks, suggesting it will take little energy to generate a major downdraft.
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Disclosure: the author held no positions in aforementioned securities at the time of publication.