In a research note, reported on by Reuters, Jeffrey Kvaal, a technology analyst at the New York City-based brokerage, lowered his price target on the stock from $185 to $175. Kvaal downgraded Apple to neutral from buy based on concerns that there is limited upside potential left for the company’s main share price driver: the iPhone X.
The analyst no longer believes that iPhone X sales can beat expectations. The fact that demand hasn’t outstripped supply, he said, indicates that sales of the flagship phone are unlikely to surpass consensus estimates that Apple will ship 79 million units in the first quarter.
"We induce from muted iPhone X promotions that demand is likely to be in line with Apple's expectations for Q1," he said in the note.
Kvaal’s cautious outlook prompted him to trim iPhone X estimates for fiscal 2018 by 7.5 percent to 265 million units. As a result, he predicts that earnings per share for the year will come in at $11.50, rather than his earlier forecast of $11.75.
These lower expectations, coupled with the analyst’s observation that Apple’s stock often falls following iPhone product launches, led Kvaal to predict that the company’s share price is unlikely to continue rising from its current highs, at least for the time being. (See also: Huawei Exec Confirms Mate 10 for US Debut.)
The technology analyst argued that traders should take note of that limited upside potential, but added that the stock still remains a reasonable option for long-term buy and hold investors comfortable with looking beyond supercycles.
Instinet isn’t the only brokerage to predict that iPhone X sales will fail to match previously bullish Wall Street forecasts. In a research note, KeyBanc Capital Markets recently warned that the smartphone’s new features aren't enough to drive a huge upgrade cycle for Apple, adding that searches for the flagship handset are tracking similar to the iPhone 6S but “well below” the search volume seen for the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 7. (See also: Apple iPhone X: Analysts Diverge on How it's Doing.)
UBS is similarly bearish. Analyst Steven Milunovich warned that iPhone X demand is “flattish” after a survey of consumers found that less people than expected intend to buy the new smartphone.