CNBC Stock Blog

The Street Loves Google, but Can the Stock Hit $1,000?

Google Headed to $1,000?

Growth investors and hedge funds were dumping Apple last quarter and piling into Google. Now some analysts think Google's stock is headed to $1,000.

"If you wound back a couple of years, I think a lot of people were selling Google to buy Apple so I think it's a reversal trade to some extent," Jefferies analyst Brian Pitz said in a CNBC interview. "I think investors are buying growth and shifting out of a name they perceive as perhaps not being as 'growthy' a name as Google is."

During the past three months, Google has climbed just over 20 percent to around $830 a share while Apple has dropped nearly 20 percent to $430 a share.

Pitz expects others in the tech space including, eBay, and even LinkedIn to benefit from the reversal of the Apple trade. "Growth investors like growth names," he said.

Toni Sacconaghi, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst, echoed the growth sentiment in a separate interview. While Apple is very inexpensively valued at about 10 times earnings, he said, the growth investors that comprise its shareholder base "need to see some incremental product or some incremental upside to revenue to provide a catalyst." He said a low-priced iPhone or major new mobile carriers for the iPhone could be that catalyst.

Google, meanwhile, continues to innovate. "We want to stay relevant in our existing products. That means we have to innovate twice as fast in areas like search, areas like YouTube and areas where people use our services," Nikesh Arora, Google's chief business officer, told CNBC.

(Read More: Google Focuses on Innovation, Not Stock Price: Exec)

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Hedge Funds: Where's the Apple Love?

With a perceived disparity in innovation, big hedge funds have fallen out of love with Apple and have snapped up shares of Google instead. According to Citi Investment Research, the search giant was the top holding in 16 of the 50 largest hedge funds and was a top holding in the top 50 actively managed U.S. mutual funds as of the end of the fourth quarter.

(Read More: Hedge Funds Heart Google)

Jefferies' Pitz has a "buy" rating on Google with a $1,000 price target, which implies about 20 percent more upside for the Internet giant.

"This stock is very cheap, only 11.6 times our earnings on 2014 numbers, which is actually cheaper than it was at the end of December," Pitz said. "So we look at this as still one of the best values in Internet land of all the names we cover."

Google's Five Hypothetical Catalysts: Mark Mahaney

Upside for Google's YouTube

Google offers growth in product listing ads and in YouTube, which Pitz said could be a $4.5 billion business as online video continues to expand. To put that growth forecast into perspective, Netflix is a $4.3 billion business, the analyst said, "with substantially lower growth relative to what Google could do on YouTube."

RBC Internet analyst Mark Mahaney also sees the potential for substantial opportunity for YouTube. "We've had a thesis building here that says TV ad budgets are going to migrate online. If that's true, YouTube and Google are the biggest beneficiary of it," he told CNBC.

Mahaney, who has an outperform rating on Google and an $840 price target, notes that on their last earnings call, Google management told the Street the top 100 advertisers were spending at least 50 percent more in 2012 than they did in 2011.

"That's a lot of growth," Mahaney said.

Monetizing digital ads still remains much harder than monetizing ads on traditional media platforms.

(Read More: Media Faces Dwindling Ad Dollars: Ex-Sirius XM CEO)

Google's Stock Surges

Will There Be a Better Time to Buy?

But investors may want to wait for a better opportunity to jump back into the stock, particularly as Google shares sit at record highs.

"In the March quarter, if you look for three years in a row, it started a 10 percent sell-off in Google after the March quarter results," BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis told CNBC. "Google tends to be seasonally stronger in the second half of the year."

Gillis said that with back-to-school and holiday shopping, advertisers are willing to pay more for click prices from Google later in the year. Gillis has a "hold" rating on the stock, with a $760 price target.

"I think you'll be able to buy Google below $800," he said.

By CNBC's Justin Menza.

Additional News: Google to Cut 1,200 Jobs at Motorola Mobility

Additional Views: Facebook Is Better Than Google in Near Term: Analyst


Jefferies makes a market in Google securities; BCG expects to receive investment compensation from Apple for investment banking services within the next three months.