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Apple on Way to $375: Analyst

CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- The Apple (AAPL - Get Report) juggernaut is rolling towards ever-greater gadget sales, according to analyst firm Needham & Company, which hiked the tech giant's price target on Monday.

Needham hiked its Apple 12-month price target from $280 to $375, mainly because Apple is bringing in much better-than-expected iPad and Mac sales. "In addition, the upgrade cycle of iPhone owners appears to be occurring much faster than we previously assumed," explained Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham.

Apple's stock, which is currently trading around $260, has risen more than 23% this year and is widely expected to hit the $300 mark.

In a note released on Monday, Wolf explained that Apple's devices are selling at a much faster rate than Needham had initially forecast. In February, Needham predicted that iPad sales would reach 20 million in 2019, but have already on target to surpass 12 million sales annually, even before a full international rollout.

Mac sales, which have played a major role in building Apple's brand, are on target to reach 14 million units this year, according to Needham, more than 50% higher than initially forecast.

Despite the recent antenna problems, white iPhone delay, and intensifying competition in the smartphone space, Apple (AAPL - Get Report) continues to fan the flames of love on Wall Street, as evidenced by the recent slew of buy ratings.

Apple's recent bad publicity has done little to dampen consumers' iPhone ardor. Wolf says that iPhone users are upgrading to new models in one or two years, faster than Needham's previous prediction of every three years.

"The faster upgrade cycle in part reflects AT&T's (T - Get Report) liberal upgrade activation policy, in which the company is waving its early termination fee for most iPhone subscribers," explained Wolf, adding that a Verizon (VZ - Get Report) iPhone launch could double Apple's share of the U.S. smartphone market.

Needham has estimated that Apple will ship over 40 million iPhones in 2010, up from 25 million last year.

The analyst firm continues to predict Apple earnings of $13.95 for 2010 and $15.50 for 2011.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

Follow James Rogers on Twitter.

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