Analysts Wait for a Reason to Love Apple Again
Wall Street's love affair with Apple is clearly waning. The stock is down about 27 percent over the past three months and dropped 12 percent after its disappointing quarterly earnings announcement.
"In retrospect I think the problem was that so many people are bullish on the company — sell-side, uniformly bullish, few short positions in the stock, there's nobody else to turn positive — so we're tending to go back the other way right now," UBS analyst Steve Milunovich told CNBC.
He cut his price target on Apple twice during the week but retains a "buy" recommendation. He said the stock could drift lower until a new catalyst gets investors interested in the stock again.
The ultra-bullish Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets sees three potential catalysts — greater cash returns to shareholders, a deal with China Mobile and an Apple TV to turn around Apple's stock. He slashed his target price from $1111 to $888, still implying the stock could double.
(Read More: Apple Suppliers Slammed, but Experts Say Buy)
Shaw Wu, Sterne Agee senior tech analyst, also said Apple is still "a very good growth story" and where the stock is trading "is a great level as an investment for investors with a longer-term horizon." But in the near-term he said the company needs to regain investors' trust.
Other analysts are turning more neutral on the stock, however. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek downgraded the tech giant from "buy" to "hold" and cut its price target from $800 to $500 per share. (Disclosure: Jefferies makes a market in Apple securities)
"It appears they lost the screen size war," he said in a CNBC interview. "They don't have a 4.5 or greater inch smartphone and that's costing them in certain parts of the market."
Apple is facing stiffer competition from Samsung, whose smartphones run Google's Android operating system. Investors have also been betting on a resurgence from Research In Motion with the launch of its new BlackBerry 10. Even Nokia, which two years ago scrapped its operating system in favor of a deal with Microsoft, appears to be gaining some traction again.
(Read More: Samsung Follows Apple Results With Record Profit)
"The company faces a much more difficult business landscape, the competition is escalating and that's going to challenge profitability over the next couple of years," said Seabreeze Partners founder Douglas Kass, suggesting the stock is "dead money."
DoubleLine CEO Jeff Gundlach, meanwhile, called Apple a "broken company" and said that stock is "over-owned."
He also took a shot at Apple's massive cash pile, saying: "That doesn't exactly call for a huge multiple."