Apple Inc. (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report shares traded at the highest levels in four months Thursday after three analysts' upgrades for the world's biggest tech company ahead of its much-anticipated launch event next week in Cupertino.
Citigroup boosted its price target on Apple by $50 to $220 per share with analyst Jim Suva expecting a dividend increase and a $100 billion increase in the company's share buyback plans when it reports second quarter earnings next month. Needham analysts upgraded Apple to "strong buy", with Laura Martin lifting her price target by $45 to $225 and arguing the company is ""most likely to prevail in a direct competition between FAANG ecosystems."
Wedbush also lifted its price target to $215 from $200 ahead of what is expected to be a launch of its video streaming service that will challenge market leaders Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix Inc. Report and Amazon (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com Inc. Report and near-term entrant Disney (DIS) - Get The Walt Disney Company Report .
JPMorgan was the lone dissenter in the morning upgrade, with Samik Chatterjee suggesting the March 25 might not be notable enough to move the needle on Apple shares, which he carries with an Overweight rating and a $228 price target.
"The March 25th event holds significance; however, less so relative to any major surprises as part of the launch of video services, but more so relative to creation of another Services growth driver. With an abundance of predictions on the announcement already widely publicized in the press, we believe the event itself will not be a catalyst," Chatterjee said. "However, as we look at the opportunity for the announcement to make a material impact on earnings in the future, we are primarily focused on longterm drivers that could set up the video service to establish itself as a strong competitor to Netflix over time."
Apple shares marked 3.5% higher by late morning in New York and changing hands at $194.77 on Thursday, a move that extends the stock's year-to-date gain past 23.3% and values the tech giant at just over $900 million. Apple touched a session high of $192.10 each Thursday, a level it hasn't trade at since November 13.
Apple has launched both a new version of is Airpod earphones, as well as an upgraded iPad Mini, iMac PCs and a new 10.5 inch iPad Air tablet in advance of its March 25 on the Apple campus in California.
The iPad continues to provide magical new experiences for a growing range of uses where it is the absolute best device, from playing games in augmented reality to note-taking and drawing with Apple Pencil, from streaming HD movies and editing 4K films to learning to develop apps with Swift Playgrounds," the company said.