Apple, Dell, H-P Poised for PC Rebound

CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL), Dell ( DELL) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) are set for a big PC revenue boost, according to new analyst data.

Using recent figures from research firm NPD, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted a continued uptick in Apple's Mac sales over the coming months.

"We expect the strong year-over-year growth in NPD data that we saw in January to continue in the month of February," he wrote in a note on Monday. "We believe this represents a buying opportunity ahead of NPD data for the month of February on March 15."

In his note to investors, Munster maintained his overweight Apple rating and price target of $284.

Apple shares hit a record high last week on news that the iPad will make its U.S. debut on April 3, so a resurgent PC business could further boost the company's share price.

Apple's shares continued their upswing on Monday, rising 51 cents, or 0.23%, to reach $219.46 shortly after market open as the Nasdaq gained 0.13%.

Apple has already been enjoying strong Mac sales, increasing the pressure on its rivals. Apple's Mac shipments climbed 33% during the first quarter, reaching 3.36 million units. This surpassed the prior quarter's then-record shipments of just over 3 million. During its first-quarter conference call, Apple said that its Mac shipments are double the PC market average.

Munster explained, however, that Apple experienced weak Mac sales in the first half of 2009, making its 2010 numbers appear particularly strong. The analyst nonetheless expects the company to ship between 2.6 million and 2.8 million Macs in its seasonally weaker March quarter, compared to Wall Street's estimate of 2.6 million.

Piper Jaffray is not the only analyst firm forecasting a major PC rebound. Goldman Sachs released its latest IT spending survey on Monday, which revealed that 40% of firms are planning to refresh their PCs this year.

"A significant PC upgrade cycle is likely to start in 2010," wrote Goldman Sachs analyst David Bailey in a note. "Our latest survey shows further momentum for corporate PCs, with H-P and Dell both gaining meaningful share of customer budgets."

Bailey highlighted a "strong rebound" in corporate demand as the economy shows more signs of recovery.

The analyst explained that in the January quarter, H-P's PC unit shipments were up 26% year-over-year with revenue up 20%, driven largely by consumer sales. Dell, however, has been struggling with soft enterprise demand, said Bailey, although this is set to change.

"Dell's recovery should begin to accelerate in the next few quarters as the company begins to benefit from a ramping corporate PC replacement cycle," he wrote.

Tech research firm IDC recently reported that shipments of PC microprocessors grew more than 31% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2009, providing yet more evidence of an improving economy.

Dell's stock gained 6 cents, or 0.43%, to reach $13.94 shortly after market open on Monday, while H-P dipped 17 cents, or 0.33%, to $51.86.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

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