Apple at $1,000? Don't bet on it
Eye-popping price targets for the tech stock should be viewed skeptically.
Apple, whose products I like and use, is a company that Wall Street analysts think is so awesome they have simply run out of superlatives for it. In the wake of Monday's announcement of a new mobile mapping service and improvements to SIRI, Topeka Capital analyst Brian White, the biggest Apple bull, took to the airwaves of CNBC yet again, saying he "couldn't be more bullish on Apple right now." That's saying something.
Earlier this year, White became the first analyst to predict that shares of the Cupertino, Calif., company would top $1,000 -- $1,001 to be precise. A month later, White raised his prediction to $1,100. Even Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, Wall Street's other well-known Apple bull, isn't that bold. He expects Apple to reach $1,000 in 2014.
Shares of Apple recently traded around $575, up more than 40% so far this year. Last year, White put a $666 price target on the stock at a time when it was trading around $390. The shares hit an all-time high of $644 on April 10, which is well under the $740 median 52-week price target.
Maybe history will vindicate White and Munster in the coming years for being the first to truly grasp the company's potential earnings power. White's forecasts, though, should be taken with a huge grain of salt given the difficulty that analysts have guessing how Apple will perform each quarter. Predicting where Apple will be in 2013 and 2014 is kind of like trying to hit a target with a bow and arrow while blindfolded.
Pundits have made similarly bold predictions about other high-flying stocks. In 2006, analyst Mark Stahlman said it was theoretically possible that Google (GOOG) might reach $2,000 a share. Mad Money's Jim Cramer argued a year later that the search engine giant might reach $1,000. Shares of the search engine giant briefly topped $700 in 2007. They last traded at $568.27, down 12% for the year.
Earlier this year, Piper Jaffray analyst Michael J. Olson argued that Priceline.com (PCLN) could hit $1,000 in the next 24 months. He placed a $763 price target on the shares. Last month, the online travel site forecast weaker-than-expected bookings growth, sending shares tumbling. They have declined more than 10% over the past week.
Apple shares are priced for perfection. They are also cheap, trading a price-to-earnings multiple of 14, near its five-year low, according to Reuters. If you believe that Apple's best days are ahead, the time to act is now.
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed companies. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.
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