It’s hard to imagine that just a little over two months ago the world was coming to an end. The stock market’s favorite superhero, technology giant Applewas trading at $522 after having reached its new 52-week high of $644.
While that was (only) a $122 drop in its stock price, it represented (only) a 22 percent decline in overall value. I say “only” because what many investors quickly lost perspective of is the fact that the stock didn’t break $400 until Dec. 23 and remarkably less than two months later it reached $500 and five weeks after that it was at $600.
The stock needed a break. What better time than in the month of May when it is known to be the optimal peak selling period?
Also for a bit of perspective on its close of $604 this past Friday, the stock was still up a remarkable 47 percent for the year.
So what exactly has all of the commotion been about? Plus if investors consider that even at its recent low of $522 the stock was still up 30 percent year-to-date it seems the market has broadly forgotten why it fell in love with the stock in the first place — but that’s a separate issue altogether.
The question investors want to know is where the stock heading next and should it be accumulated ahead of earnings?
I’m Calling Shotgun
Apple has always been the story that just appears too good to be true. Judging by recent investor activity, it seems some skeptics want to see if it can still produce rabbits out of its hat.
By sheer virtue of its success, there are many who are simply waiting for the company to fall flat on its face. They are not that hard to find and are fairly easy to spot as they are often seen wearing Research in Motion, Microsoft, or Google paraphernalia.
Be that as it may, the stock has also seen several analyst upgrades this quarter, as well as some extremely bullish price targets, including Stuart O’Gorman of Henderson Global who has set a target of $1,200 on the stock, followed by Brian While of Topeka Capital with a target of $1,111.
Overall, of the stock has an average price target of $724, according to a recent poll posted on CNNMoney.
These projections sound great, but with the stock still 100 percent below its most bullish projections what everyone wants to know is where will its next neat idea come from? What can it possibly reveal during the conference call to send its shares soaring again to new heights much less to these enormous levels?
This is the question that other leaders such as Cisco Systems and Microsoft were unable to answer. Though they are still relevant today, their dominance has slowed considerably. Can Apple avoid the same fate?
According to my own recent calculations, I see the stock reaching as high as $1,500 based on the growth projections of not only markets in which Apple currently leads, but more importantly, in markets it has yet to enter — particularly the automobile industry, where stocks such as Sirius XM Radioand Pandora Media are likely to start seeing some declining share, essentially taking a backseat to Apple.
Now that it has demonstrated its dominance in markets such as smartphones, tablets, its line of computers and laptops, there is clear evidence that Apple’s mobile iOS will help it create new markets, such as its iTV initiative which will likely signal the beginning of the “smarthome.”
Having some understanding of market dynamics, here is what’s going to happen over the next couple of years. Based on its sheer size and the revenue, it is likely to generate from licensing its OS to the auto manufacturers, both Google and Microsoft will follow suit and enter the auto. These will essentially create the dominant players of that market, with Apple the clear-cut leader.
Microsoft saw this opportunity long before Apple when it partnered with Ford Motor with its Sync car radio system, but it was unable to generate much success. This may now be another opportunity for it to re-ignite this feature.
Understanding Where the Company Is Heading
Apple understands better than most how to anticipate a trend — something that many of its rivals are unable to duplicate effectively. Wall Street continues to demand excellence in growth. That requires not market followers — like those now trying to break produce an attractive tablet — but market leaders, nimble companies that can see what’s coming next.
It is hard to blame anyone for taking profits on a stock that has run up over 50 percent — especially one that continues to be a case of “too good to be true.”
However, if one looks at all of the possibilities from its dominance within its existing market, as well as its highly anticipated iPhone 5 and soon-to-be released mini-iPad, there seems no end to this growth story. I would definitely be a buyer here ahead of earnings.
While some investors may consider playing the “bird in the hand” theory and cash in ahead of the company's announcement, it would not surprise me the least bit to see Apple reward investors with a few more surprises, as it did when it announced its dividend. At current levels, I will be buying Apple on any signs of weakness before or after the announcement.
Where many see an expensive stock price, I see an equity trading at a considerable discount relative to its earnings potential. The stock is trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of only 11.
That is in line with other technology companies, including its rivals in Google and Microsoft, but considerably discounted to the forward P/E of 88 that Amazon.com enjoys.
Here’s some perspective: In Apple’s second-quarter results, the company continued to demonstrate just how dominant it is by earning $11.6 billion, or $12.30 per share, for the quarter — almost matching what it earned for the entire fiscal 2010 calendar.
So why is the market expecting more from a stock such as Salesforce.com, which has a forward P/E of 67, than from Apple? It doesn’t make much sense. But if the market were rational, Apple would already be trading at $1,000 per share — particularly for the fact that it is sitting on $100 billion in cash.
Furthermore, not only did its recent revenue surge 59 percent during the quarter; Apple shipped 35.1 million iPhones and 11.8 million iPads. I was pretty astonished by the fact that Apple was able to log 88 percent unit growth above the same quarter last year, while also selling 151 percent more iPads.
If there is such a thing as a must-have stock on the market today it is Apple — I expect will it trade at $1,500 by this time in 2015. It is one of only a handful of companies that consistently puts out must-have products. Why would anyone not want to own the stock — one I have come to realize remains the cheapest on the market.
—By TheStreet.com Contributor Richard Saintvilus
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TheStreet’s editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters, and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks. At the time of publication, Richard Saintvilus was long AAPL and held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.