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Updated from 2:08 p.m. EST to provide closing share price performance in the seventh paragraph, and recent price target cut in fifth paragraph.



) -- It's earnings season, and

Goldman Sachs

is raising the stakes on



, lifting its price target on the tech giant to $550.

Goldman's new price target coincided with Apple hitting a new 52-week high on Monday. Shares of the iPhone maker, which will report earnings on Jan. 24, spiked briefly to $427.38 shortly after the market opened, surpassing its previous 52-week high of $426.70.

Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope raised his price target to $550 from $520 and reiterated his Conviction List buy rating based on expectations for strong iPhone sales in the December quarter. Shope raised his iPhone sales estimate to 31.0 million from 30.2 million, an annual growth rate of 91%.

Goldman's target sits above the 12-month median price target on Apple shares of $510, according to

Yahoo! Finance

. The top price target on Apple is $700, from Hudson Square's Daniel Ernst. Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster and Ticonderoga Securities' Brian White are also exceptionally high on Apple, with $607 and $666 price targets, respectively.

Conversely, Morgan Keegan analyst Tavis McCourt cut his price target to $513 from $530 last week, citing lower than expected iPad sales based off Kindle Fire sales eating away at Apple's market share.



makes the Kindle Fire.

"For the December quarter, we now forecast overall revenues of $38.18 billion and EPS of $9.94, versus consensus of $38.28 billion and $9.87 and our prior estimates of $37.06 billion and $9.44," Goldman's Shope wrote in his note.

Shope expects Apple's Mac line to continue to defy the weakness seen in the PC market, led by the MacBook Air, which he believes will continue to drive "hefty notebook share gains for the company in coming quarters."

Apple shares were among the best gainers in 2011, gaining almost 26% during the year. Shares finished Monday off the highs, losing 67 cents to settle at $421.73.

Of the 54 analysts covering Apple. 49 rate the stock at either strong buy (24) or buy (25) with the remainder split between hold (3), underperform (1) and sell (1), according to

Thomson Reuters


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Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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