12-Month Net Income Growth: 70%
12-Month Stock Performance: 55%
3-Year Annualized Sales Growth: 40%
3-Year Annualized Net Income Growth: 59%
3-Year Annualized Stock Performance: 23%
Needless to say, Apple's growth record and stock performance are impressive, especially when considering that the company's products are targeted at consumers. Consumer spending has been a drag on the broader U.S. economy since 2008, when recession struck, and remains at below-trend levels due to 9.8% unemployment. Also, Apple currently carries $51 billion of cash and investments, and no debt, so its balance sheet is best-in-class. That cash coffer provides tremendous opportunity for acquisitions, share buybacks or sizable dividends. Analysts are optimistic about Apple's trajectory in 2011. Analysts' median 12-month price target, at $384.16, suggests an impending gain of 15%. Goldman is among Apple's biggest bulls, offering the second-highest price target, at $430, implying a rise of 29% in the next year. Piper Jaffray offers the loftiest target, at $438, consistent with a 31% gain. Goldman's latest missive on Apple, at 59 pages, touches upon all near-term catalysts for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company and explains why Wall Street, in Goldman's view, is underestimating a fundamental improvement in 2011. According to Goldman, the primary concerns weighing on investors are recent gross margin erosion and less-than-bullish guidance from management. But the bank believes that the spread deterioration is not only normal, but that "margins have already bottomed." It has an aggressive forecast for sales of the iPad, Apple's tablet computer, predicting 37 million units will be shipped in 2011.