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Is iTunes Under Pressure? Analysts See Apple Ripe For Gains

Scott Wapner
Wednesday, 13 Dec 2006 | 3:29 PM ET

Apple Computer's shares are up after Morgan Stanley upped its share price target for the computer maker and a note from Piper Jaffray on a big jump in iTunes sales, contradicting a report that sales collapsed in the year's first half.

Apple shares are moving higher after Morgan Stanley analyst Rebecca Runkle raised her price target on the stock to $110 from $90 and upped her earnings forecast (Play-By-Play: Apple Humming The Right iPod Tune?).

Runkle ratcheted up fiscal year 2007 and 2008 earnings estimates, pushing 2007 profits to $2.73 a share from her current estimate of $2.45, and 2008 earnings to $3.58 from $2.85 a share.

Runkle believes a number of new products will add to Apple's revenue growth in the coming quarters, including iPhone and iTv. She says in her report that "in the intermediate term, an expanding product portfolio, growing distribution engine and market share opportunities all keep us overweight Apple."

A largely expected sales driver, the iPhone could debut in early March or April. UBS is also high on the new phone. That firm said today that Apple could run its own mobile virtual network operation. For the year, Apple shares are up nearly 20%.

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iTUNES A-OK, PIPER JAFFRAY SAYS

Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray said iTunes sales surged over the first nine months of 2006, contradicting a report that sales collapsed in the first half, according to Reuters.

Apple shares fell 3% on Tuesday after Forrester Research reported a 65% drop in monthly iTunes revenue in the first six months of the year, based on a survey of North American consumers.

But Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research report that the number of songs sold per week on iTunes rose 78% in the first nine months of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005.

"Contrary to recent reports suggesting sales on iTunes are declining rapidly, our analysis of Apple company data ... shows strong growth (year over year)," Munster wrote.

Piper Jaffray said the number of songs sold by iTunes totaled 695 million from January through September, amounting to about 18.5 million songs per week.

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