After seeing a decline over the past month, Apple stock gained $20.17 (4.15%) on Wednesday to close at $506.09. | Chart via Reuters
In a quarterly preview, analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray predicts that Apple will surpass the firm's earlier December quarter estimates by five million units based in part on "commentary from AT&T suggesting iPhone sales expanded slightly [year-over-year] and [from] Verizon that iPhone helped it reach record activations in December." Munster estimates roughly 15 million iPhones could have been sold in the U.S., with a possible global sales range of 41 to 54 million units.
Munster also reduces the estimate for iPhones sales for the upcoming March 2013 quarter by five million to 38 million units. The firm expects that Apple's forthcoming guidance will shed light on recent reports of component order cuts.
Piper also expects Apple to announce 25 million iPad sales for the December quarter, with 20 million full-size iPads sold alongside five million iPad minis. Mac sales will likely see a drop of seven percent year-over-year, with Apple selling 4.8 million Macs over the last three months of 2012.
Topeka Capital: Apple risk-reward "extremely attractive"
Analysts at Topeka Capital Markets remain upbeat on AAPL despite negative sentiment surrounding the stock. In a report released Wednesday -- titled "Apple's Brightest and Most Innovative Days are Ahead of It" -- analyst Brian White said the firm believes Apple's product portfolio "has never been stronger," rated the stock a "buy," and set a 12-month price target of $1,111.
White pointed toward three factors in his positive assessment of Apple's future. First was the continuing growth of the smartphone and tablet sectors, two areas where Apple holds an enviable position as a market leader. Second were positive indications out of China, where Apple is working on a deal with the world's largest carrier China Mobile and is now moving to position its iPhone to be more price-competitive.
Finally, White pointed to the television market, which he believes is still ripe for an Apple disruption. The report views Apple's "reinvention" of the TV experience as an eventuality, and White was unimpressed with the smart TV offerings Samsung, LG, and others had on display at last week's Consumer Electronics Show. A strongly disruptive Apple television product, White says, could create an entirely new $100 billion to $400 billion market opportunity.