Apple Hit $600, Now Raise the Target

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Since the company reported fiscal second-quarter results April 23, Apple (AAPL) stock has been on tear, soaring almost 15% to Monday's close at $600.96.

There's a lot of speculation about why Apple has now achieved its highest level in almost two years. We know about the company's strong earnings reports, which included a solid beat on every metric outside of the iPad.

Recall, Apple's earnings rose 7% year over year to $10.2 billion. Aside from beating earnings estimates by 14%, Apple's revenue climbed 5% year over year to $45.6 billion, which also topped estimates by 5%. Perhaps more impressively, Apple was able to erase notions of slumping sales in its flagship iPhone device. Apple exceeded estimates by 13%, reaching 43.7 million units. Analysts were modeling for only 38.5 million.

These numbers were nothing short of impressive. Now that they've brought Apple to that psychological threshold of $600, investors want assurances that CEO Tim Cook, who has come under fire lately, will do everything in his power to push Apple beyond $600. This is where Cook, who has promised that Apple will enter new product categories, is beginning to take shape.

Aside from announcing an unusual 7-for-1 stock split, Apple didn't unveil any new products during the earnings report. But that doesn't mean they're not on the way. While we continue to hear rumors about an iWatch and a possible iTV, there hasn't been any evidence to suggest that Apple has been working on these products -- until now.

Apple's subsequent 10-Q filing showed that Apple spent $2.8 billion in manufacturing equipment, product tooling and marketing. That may not seem like a big deal at first, but when taking a deeper look, it shows that half of the $2.8 billion went towards research and development costs.

Recall, last year Apple spent just a little over $1 billion in these same areas combined. In the most recent filing, a 30% jump in research and development suggests the first real anomaly in Apple's typical operation. I believe this abnormality will precede the new product announcement that we've been waiting for since the launch of the original iPad.

Apple can go in any direction with these. The popular opinion continues to favor wearable devices, specifically the in watch category. The questions is, to what extent can it dominate this new market.

Recall, Samsung (SSNLF) launched its Galaxy Gear last December -- albeit to less fanfare than anticipated. But Samsung is said to already be working on its next generation smartwatch. After Samsung shunned Google (GOOG) by not going with Android, Google has since been working on its own device called Android Wear.

Reports suggest that Google has given software developers an advanced glimpse of the device, hoping they will rush to build various apps. But with Apple having just increased its R&D spending by 66% in two years, it is Samsung and Google that should fear what Apple will possibly unveil in a few months.

Tim Cook recently rewarded investors with an additional $30 billion buyback plan atop $60 billion in existing authorizations. This is while raising the company's quarterly dividend by 8% to $3.29. So the $600 mark was a matter of when, not if.

Apple has no intention of falling below $600 again. Institutional investors know this. With the stock less than 4% away from analysts' consensus price target of $623.78  according to Thomson Reuters, investors should expect a flood of price increases for Apple in the next few weeks.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL and held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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