Updated from 1 p.m. to include additional analysis in the fourth and fifth paragraphs.
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White, who rates Apple shares a "buy" with a $777 price target, called the iPad maker his "top large-cap pick" for 2014. White also covers Splunk (SPLK), Tableau Software (DATA) and several other companies for Cantor Fitzgerald. He noted that while 2013 was a year to forget, with a lousy stock performance for Apple amid concerns about innovation, 2014 will be much better.
"Our research suggests Apple has been working hard to excite investors in 2014 with new product innovations," White wrote in a note. "After a challenging stock performance in 2013 (up 5%) relative to the S&P 500 Index (up 30%) and the first EPS decline (FY:13 and CY:13E) in a decade, we estimate that Apple will return to growth in 2014, and we expect the stock price to reflect this improved performance."
White noted that when combined with the strength of his Apple Barometer, new products coming in 2014 and recent checks in Asia, Apple likely had a "strong holiday season." White is expecting Apple to unveil the oft-rumored iWatch sometime this year, and may even expand the iPhone lineup to a unit with multiple screen sizes. His checks indicate "the potential for up to three iPhone screen sizes with entry into the mega-sized smartphone category."
There have also been a slew of rumors in recent weeks that Apple would also build a larger, 12.9-inch iPad, dubbed the iPad Pro, to take on hybrid tablet/ultrabook devices that have started to come to market in recent months.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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