Mixed signals on Apple Inc. from Goldman Sachs
FORTUNE — It could have been worse for Apple (AAPL).
In a flurry of notes issued Tuesday, Goldman Sachs’ Bill Shope lowered his forecast for the entire PC industry and downgraded Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) from Neutral to Sell.
Apple got a mixed review. Although Shope removed the company from Goldman’s coveted “conviction list” and lowered his price target to $575 from $660, he still rates the stock a Buy, describing the company’s current valuation as “remarkably depressed.”
“Even with the investor concerns that have mounted as of late,” he writes, “we believe most agree that the company has brighter secular prospects than typical value tech names” such as Intel (INTC), Microsoft (MSFT) and Oracle (ORCL).
For the quarter that ended Saturday, Shope changed several estimates: His revenue number went up 1% (to $42.592 billion from $42.351 billion) while his EPS went down 2% (to $9.92 from $10.17) largely because his gross margin estimate fell 82 basis points (to 38% from 39%).
But the bottom line, as Shope sees it, is that “the most recent product cycle has not driven the market share and new user growth we had anticipated, and we believe Apple may find it difficult to hit consensus expectations in the March and June quarters.”
Apple first appeared on Goldman’s conviction list in December 2010 and during its 28 month stay it managed to outperform the S&P 500 33.8% to 25.9%. But as the arc of the chart above suggests, Shope’s clients might have been better served if he had mentioned last fall that Goldman Sachs was selling Apple, lowering its considerable holdings in the fourth calendar quarter by 1.2 million shares. See Look who dumped Apple in Q4.