Merrill Lynch ups AAPL target to $325

Cites the strength of the iPhone, demand for the iPad and expanding gross margins

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's Scott Craig issued a bullish note to clients Friday in which he raised his estimates for Apple's (aapl) third quarter revenue and earnings and upped his share price target -- from $300 to $325.

"We believe multiple tailwinds exist for iPhone demand," he wrote, "including strong uptake at AT&T (continued) and international growth (expansion to multi- carrier and with existing carriers). ... We raise our iPad estimates on better than expected demand (with lengthy lead times) and based on channel checks in Asia. Also, we believe consensus estimates meaningfully underestimate Apple’s gross margin potential (not overly unusual)."

Craig is the fourth major analyst this month to raise Apple's price target in advance of the company's third fiscal quarter, which ends June 26. The others were Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty (to $310), Standard & Poor's Clyde Montevirgen ($300) and Sterne Agee's Vijay Rakesh ($300).

Most analysts wait until after the company's earnings report to let their clients know where they think the stock is headed. According to, which tracks these things, 19 analysts raised their Apple price targets on April 21, the day after the company's Q2 earnings report.

Below the fold: A snapshot of AAPLinvestor's analyst ratings list. Note: this version doesn't yet include the news from Merrill Lynch. Click here for the latest.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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