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What's Holding Apple Up?

Kevin Cook

There are a few stocks I really look forward to earnings from. Caterpillar (CAT) and Cummins (CMI) tell us about China/EM growth. And we know what we just learned from CMI... it's getting ugly out there. CAT reports July 25.

And then there's Apple, which is one stock I say where you always buy the dips. Not just a "tech" story, it lives on its own stage where its "must-have gadget magic" makes it a consumer revolution story.

Now, it is also a huge developing markets story as iPhone and iPad sales ramp up in China and other places where emerging consumer classes aspire to have the things that Japanese and American citizens have. 

So not even a global slow-down that has firms like Barclays and JPMorgan slashing technology cap-ex and earnings estimates seems like it will affect Apple much. Maybe Google (GOOG) who reports next week is another new tech bellwether immune from this.

But one analyst at a respected firm begs to differ and stuck his neck out this week to say so. Keith Bachman of BMO Harris Capital Markets warned that the next two quarters for Apple could be much softer than consensus expectations. You can easily search for the story in Barron's and elsewhere, but I will give a couple of details I can recall.

Bachman raised his estimates for iPhone sales but sees iPads negatively affecting Mac numbers. He is mostly focused on the September quarter where he sees only $33 billion in revenue vs the consensus of $38.5B.

Recent downward estimate revisions in the Zacks data may be from Bachman...

June quarter: down to $10.18 from $10.21 vs consensus $10.34

Sep quarter: down to $9.84 from $10.55 vs consensus $10.27

Full year 2012: down to $46.15 from $46.90 vs consensus $46.87

And here's a quote from his report...

"However, we think investors are well aware of the product cycle, and likely negative revision to near-term estimates. Moreover, we think Apple shares will respond in a positive way to the pending launch of the new iPhone, as we look to year-end. If Apple is able to launch the new iPhone in the month of September, then actual unit shipments in the September Q will be less relevant, as management and investors will focus on the momentum of the new iPhone."

Okay, now to my point. I think the stock market is fighting to justify its existence near S&P 1350 and I think Apple will take out the last swing lows near $566 before it goes to new highs above $644. 

The current pre-earnings ramp above $600 may be justified for some investors who cant afford to be caught short AAPL shares if they do surprise to the upside. And if you are long-term investor with at least a 2-year horizon, I think buying at $600 is a good investment.

But for short-term swing traders, gaming the 10% you might make in the next few months isn't a good high-probability edge. Better to wait and see what July 24 brings.

Two weeks ago I wrote that we'd see $500 before $700. I still stand by that, but I'd be a buyer of this earnings machine with 70% EPS growth this year anywhere near $550.

Currently trading just under 13X 2012 estimates, Apple is very likely to bust through the $50 EPS mark next year with the launch of new the iPhone5 and Apple TV. Which means it's trading for under 12X, to say nothing of its cash hoard.

What do you say about AAPL for either a trade or an investment? Buy it now at $600 or wait for it to go on sale again?

Read the analyst report on AAPL

Read the analyst report on SPY

Read the analyst report on CMI

Read the analyst report on GOOG

Read the analyst report on CAT

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