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Nomura Instinet reaffirmed its neutral rating on Apple shares, predicting the company will report iPhone unit sales below expectations this year.
"Our demand checks suggest little improvement in iPhone demand in 2018. Corresponding supply chain downticks suggest iPhone expectations have yet to bottom," analyst Jeffrey Kvaal wrote in a note to clients Monday. There are "further signs of trouble at the high end of the market. … One factor that is likely suppressing the smartphone market is price. We see several indications the market elasticity is falling."
Apple shares dropped 1.5 percent Monday after the report.
Kvaal noted AT&T's iPhone X buy one, get one free promotion didn't do well and was retracted after two weeks. The firm's Korea analyst reported preorders for Samsung's high-end Galaxy S9 are down 30 percent.
"We do not believe it is coincidence that the highest end of the product portfolio, the X, is the model that is flagging," he wrote. "The China domestic vendors may be focusing on the mid-tier of the market. These datapoints align with the theory that smartphone ASPs [average selling prices] may be bumping up against their upper limit."
As a result, the analyst lowered his fiscal 2018 iPhone sales unit forecast to 221 million from 226 million versus the Wall Street consensus of 224 million. He reiterated his $175 price target for Apple shares, representing 2 percent downside to Friday's close.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.