Apple gets two downgrades due to ‘dramatically’ slowing iPhone X demand

Key Points
  • KeyBanc Capital Markets and Bernstein lower their ratings for Apple shares.
  • "IPhone X demand, in particular, appeared to slow dramatically since December," Bernstein's analyst writes.
Wall Street sours on Apple after slowing iPhone demand

Wall Street analysts are retracting their bullish calls for Apple because of slowing iPhone sales.

Apple reported weaker-than-expected December-quarter iPhone unit sales on Thursday. The company also gave a lower-than-expected revenue forecast for the March quarter. The company's shares declined 4.4 percent Friday.

KeyBanc Capital Markets on Thursday lowered its rating for Apple shares to sector weight from overweight.

"Soft iPhone sell-through suggests a saturated market and the lack of gross margin upside reduces our view of potential profit growth," analyst Andy Hargreaves wrote in a note to clients. "This reduces our view of potential upside in the stock and prompts the downgrade."

Hargreaves does not have an official price target for Apple shares, but he said the stock's "fair value" is $178 per share.

In similar fashion, Bernstein reduced its rating for Apple shares to market perform from outperform.

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"Relative to expectations, the cycle is weak, and total iPhones sold are likely to be flat for the third straight year," analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote in a note to clients Friday. "We fear that unit growth could potentially decline by more than what we have seen over the last two years, largely due to the fact that iPhone X demand, in particular, appeared to slow dramatically since December."

Sacconaghi reduced his price target for Apple shares to $170 from $195, representing 1 percent upside to Thursday's close.

Apple shares are underperforming the market so far this year, down 1 percent through Thursday versus the S&P 500's 6 percent gain.

Other Wall Street analysts downgraded the tech giant's shares earlier this year.

Longbow Research lowered its rating on Jan. 17 to neutral from buy, predicting the company will ship fewer iPhones than expected in fiscal 2018.

Atlantic Equities reduced its rating on Apple shares to neutral from overweight on Jan. 22. BMO Capital Markets lowered its rating for Apple shares to market perform from outperform Wednesday.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this story.