Apple is cutting back on ordering key products in the face of weakening demand—here’s why analysts are still bullish on the company

January 4, 2023, 5:28 PM UTC
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., next to a display of the new MacBook Air laptop computer during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, US, on Monday, June 6, 2022.
Apple CEO Tim Cook
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Until recently, Apple managed to avoid most of the fallout from rising interest rates and high inflation that led so many of its Big Tech peers to crater in 2022. But over the past month, production delays and concerns that demand for tech products is fading as the global economy weakens have sent the company’s stock down nearly 15%.

And this week, investors got more evidence of the demand slowdown when Apple told its suppliers to make fewer components for key products including Macs, iPads, and AirPods, Nikkei Asia first reported, citing sources at tech component suppliers.

Apple did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment about any slowdown.

Wedbush tech analyst Dan Ives, who has long been an Apple bull, said in a Wednesday note that Apple’s production slowdown reflects a “softer consumer backdrop” and that demand concerns are now a “clear overhang” for the stock. And CFRA Research tech analyst Angelo Zino said in a Tuesday note that he wasn’t “shocked” by the news that Apple was slowing its ordering of components as the company is facing a “more challenging” environment.

But despite demand issues and a potential recession, both Ives and Zino remain bullish on Apple’s long-term prospects, arguing that the company’s cash flows remain steady, it has a “management team that rarely makes mistakes,” and it offers growth potential in key areas like augmented reality.

While tech stocks “remain enemy No. 1 on the Street” owing to rising interest rates that make investing for future growth more costly, Ives still believes Apple is a winning long-term investment—as do many Wall Street analysts. 

Still bullish

Apple’s average 12-month price target on the Street is just over $176, representing a potential upside of nearly 40%, according to data from TipRanks. But concerns about the global economy have led many analysts to cut their price targets for Apple’s shares in recent weeks.

Even Ives slashed his price target from $200 per share to $175 on Wednesday, citing “an uncertain environment” that has caused “demand headwinds.” 

The tech bull said that Apple may be forced to cut its iPhone orders over the next few quarters, but he still believes the company remains a “Rock of Gibraltar name” for investors and the latest slowdown in demand is merely a short-term issue.

“Apple remains our favorite tech name, and we maintain our outperform rating,” he wrote.

Apple’s demand problem is a relatively new development. Just months ago, lockdowns at key factories in China of Apple’s biggest iPhone supplier, Foxconn, led to production issues, leaving the company millions of iPhones less than what it needed for customers.

Ives noted that Apple was unable to meet demand for between 8 million and 10 million iPhones in the December quarter owing to these shutdowns and other supply-chain issues, and argued those sales will likely shift to 2023. 

“We believe the overall demand environment is more resilient than the Street is anticipating, and thus we believe baked into the stock is a massive amount of bad news ahead,” he wrote. 

Zino also noted that Apple has historically cut its hardware purchases after the holidays, so the latest ordering slowdown may be more seasonal in nature.

He added that COVID supply constraints have been “largely addressed,” but Apple’s stock may still have further to fall in the near term as earnings estimates will likely need to be revised lower in the first quarter owing to the weakening economy.  

Still, Zino believes Apple’s shares will be at $165 by the end of the year—a roughly 30% jump from Wednesday’s levels. He notes that the company produces over $100 billion in free annual cash flow—or cash available to pay creditors, dividends, and interest—that gives it a stable income to weather any potential recession.

“Investors should embrace this opportunity,” he wrote.

Our new weekly Impact Report newsletter examines how ESG news and trends are shaping the roles and responsibilities of today’s executives. Subscribe here.

Read More

CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate