After a period of deep concern by Apple (AAPL) investors, when the stock fell from $194 at the beginning of the year to $121 in early February and then languished for two months, the shares are on a tear again.
In early March, the stock traded below $120. From then, it has moved almost straight up to $185.
The Apple recovery is much more about the future than about news which, while being good, was more or less expected. Apple had earnings which would be the envy of almost any other company. Its Mac is now a legitimate threat to the world of PCs. The iPhone is selling well in the US and parts of Europe. The iPod, with 150 million units sold worldwide, is at least holding its own.
Although the iPhone does not bring in much of Apple’s income now, news about the handset is what will take the stock back to $200 in a month, a level which is only about 8% above the current price.
The market expects the Mac to sell well in the present quarter. The rapid growth of iPod sales in now part of the past, but that is factored into Wall St.’s view of the company.
The iPhone has gone through an important marketing transformation in the last few weeks. Vodafone (VOD) will begin to market it in almost a dozen countries. AT&T (T) is likely to drop prices on the handset in the US, and there are frequent rumors about a deal with Chine Mobile (CHL).
The 3G version of the iPhone will be out next month. Apple won’t say that, but almost every educated observer will. The product launch cuts two ways. It will make current versions of the iPhone practically obsolete. AT&T and other resellers may have to offer very sharp discounts to sell old inventory. That will not matter much. The excitement around the new product will push Apple’s stock higher.
A 3G version of the iPhone will bring in a large number of customers who would not consider the handset before. According to Clearwave Research, the lack of 3G capacity has been the foremost complaint about the product as it is sold today.
A 3g iPhone will, in essence, give consumers and business people access to a portable computer. Smartphones with that capacity are sold in the market already. But, Apple brings the buyer an easy of use and panache which cannot be had with any other product. The new iPhone will sell like hotcakes.
Douglas A. McIntyre