Editors' pick: Originally published Sept. 22.
Though it has ticked higher over the last week, Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) December quarter (fiscal Q1) consensus analyst estimates is primed to rise further still following a stronger-than-expected iPhone 7 debut. Some of this has clearly been priced in to its stock over the last ten days, but perhaps not all of it.
As of right now, a Thomson Reuters consensus of 33 analysts still calls for Apple's sales to drop 2.8% annually in fiscal Q1 to $73.8 billion. That's just slightly improved from a consensus for a 3.6% drop a week ago, even though Sprint (S - Get Report) and T-Mobile U.S. (TMUS - Get Report) reported their pre-orders for Apple's latest iPhones were up sharply from a year ago at the beginning of last week. Though this growth benefited from promotions some other major carriers didn't engage in, its magnitude still points to a strong increase in demand.
A couple of analyst notes out Thursday provide fresh reasons to think Apple's sales will be up annually in Q1, even if the company has a little more time this year to record sales for its latest iPhone in Q4. Cowen's Tim Arcuri reports that his firm's field checks indicate Apple has increased its Q1 iPhone production plans by about 5% to roughly 73 million units, more than offsetting cuts in iPhone 6S and 6S-plus orders.
Arcuri also reports Apple's orders are now more strongly skewed towards the iPhone 7-plus, which leads him to think there could be upside to a consensus Q1 average selling price (ASP) estimate of $628. This is backed up by data from e-commerce research firm Slice, which indicates 55% of initial iPhone 7 buyers opted for the 7-plus.
Separately, Nomura's Frederick Grieb has hiked his Q1 iPhone sales estimate by 5 million to 78 million, and his 2017 estimate by 4 million to 234 million. He adds "data points from many regions (US, UK, Japan) indicate a very healthy iPhone 7 launch," and that steady wait times for orders "lend credence to our view of a ramping supply chain after early bottlenecks."
For reference, Apple sold 74.8 million iPhones in last year's fiscal Q1. Better-than-expected iPhone 7 sales should also provide a big boost to audio chip maker Cirrus Logic (CRUS - Get Report) . Cirrus gets over half its sales from Apple, and has seen its revenue per iPhone unit rise sharply with the iPhone 7 thanks to the device's extra speaker and lack of a traditional headphone jack.
Another upbeat note was recently issued by RBC's Amit Daryanani. Citing a survey of more than 6,000 people, he also sees a mix shift towards the iPhone 7-plus that could yield "substantial ASP upside," and says data points to "stability in the iPhone replacement cycle." His Q1 revenue and EPS estimates were respectively upped to $78.7 billion and $3.29, above a current consensus for $73.8 billion and $3.15.
To be fair, not every analyst note on Apple has been gushing with praise. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, a long-time Apple bull, reports only 34.8% of iPhone owners said "Yes" or "Maybe" to a question about whether they plan to buy the iPhone 7 in a survey conducted after the phone's unveiling. That's down from 43.8% in July.
But considering how weak the iPhone 6S upgrade cycle was, iPhone 7 purchases by about 35% of the base should still be enough to drive annual sales growth, particularly when paired with ASP increases. Look for more analysts to nudge their Apple estimates, and perhaps also their price targets, higher ahead of the company's October Q4 report.
Shares of Apple were up 0.9% to $114.62 on Thursday.