By Lehar Maan
REUTERS - Apple Inc has lost about $50 billion of its market value in the first four days of the year, but Wall Street brokerages remained confident the stock would bounce back.
While several brokerages reduced their price targets in response to reports of slowing shipments of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, they backed their mostly upbeat recommendations.
The most bearish of the six brokerages lowering their targets on Friday was Cowen and Co, which cut its target to $125. Still, that's nearly 30 percent more than where the stock was trading on Friday.
Apple's shares were up 2.2 percent at $98.58 by noon, snapping a three-day losing streak. The median price target of $145 calls for a nearly 50 percent increase in the stock price.
"We continue to view the near-term softness in iPhone units as the result of tough comparisons rather than a change to the secular growth rate," BMO Capital Markets analysts wrote in a note. The brokerage cut its price target on the stock to $133 from $142.
Nevertheless, China remained a concern, at least for the near-term. Apple counts China as one its biggest markets and the recent economic tumult in the world's second-biggest economy is likely to hurt the company.
"I think they have seen some incremental weakness in China," Cowen analyst Timothy Arcuri said.
Cowen was among the three brokerages that lowered their iPhone shipment estimates.
Analysts now expect Apple to increase revenue this year by less than 4 percent on average. This is a far cry from the 28 percent achieved in the fiscal year that ended in September.
Still, more than 80 percent of the analysts have a "buy" or higher recommendation on the stock.
Driving some of the optimism is the launch of iPhone 7, expected in the second half of the year.
"We continue to view the risk/reward on AAPL positively as we anticipate growth in the (iPhone 7) cycle, which should drive stock appreciation through 2016," Pacific Crest Securities analysts wrote in a note.
Users of older iPhones upgrading to the iPhone 7 could boost sales by 40 million units in 2017, the brokerage said.
(Reporting By Lehar Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)