Nationalistic sentiment in China -- and specifically anti-American sentiment -- could pressure its significant sales in the region.
"We believe the more concerning issue is around any hit in demand if Apple feels the noise in China and any pro Huawei sentiment/Chinese nationalism negatively impacting sales in the near term which we believe is a contained situation (3%-5% of Chinese iPhones) for Cupertino the way things stand today," Ives said in a note.
The current tariffs aren't having much of an impact on Apple, but most Apple analysts have said a second round of proposed tariffs would increase its supply chain costs, whether Apple chooses to absorb the added costs or pass them along to consumers. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in a recent note that if Apple had to absorb those costs, as she expects, it would shave $3 off of her 2020 EPS estimate of $12.67.
But Ives doesn't view additional tariffs on Apple as particularly realistic, and he also notes CEO Tim Cook's track record of mitigating tariffs. "To this point, we continue to strongly believe that for a company that employees over 1 million Chinese workers with its flagship Foxconn factory and is a major strategic player within the China technology ecosystem that from a supply chain perspective Apple will not have major roadblocks ahead despite the loud noise," Ives said. "Taking a step back, we ultimately believe there is a low likelihood that Apple and its iPhones feel the brunt of the tariffs given its strategic importance domestically as well as Cook's ability to navigate these issues in the past with Trump and K Street."
Overall, Ives remains bullish on Apple with a $235 price target, representing 31% upside from the stock's current level. The average price target on Wall Street is $213.
Apple closed down .38% on Friday to $178.97.