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Friday, April 24, 2009, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Wall Street cheers Apple's "outstanding" second-quarter

Analysts on Wall Street are largely applauding Apple's performance during the March quarter, with many of them this week initiating more bullish views of the company's prospects going forward. Included is a run down analyst ratings and price target changes, along with some excerpts from their commentary.

Piper Jaffray: Buy ($180)

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who maintained his Buy rating and $180 price target on Apple shares, encouraged investors to pour money into the Cupertino-based company, adding that he expects Steve Jobs to return to the company, though possibly in a reduced role such as Chairman with Tim Cook adopting the permanent CEO role.

"We remain buyers of AAPL; March quarter results confirm that demand for Apple's products remains strong despite a tough macro environment," he said. "New iPhones and the potential for Jobs to return in June should be catalysts for shares to move higher over the next several weeks. We expect growth to re-accelerate when macro trends improve."

Oppenheimer & Co: Outperform ($140)

Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Yair Reiner raised his estimates and price target on shares of Apple from $120 to $140.

"Apple continues to defy the common misconception that, as a premium brand, it's destined to underperform in a time of economic duress," he said. "Apple products aren't cheap, but the resiliency in their demand suggests they're creating a lot of value-not by cutting prices (like most peers) but primarily by increasing utility. The strategy is working now and should work doubly well when the world emerges from its current morass."

Barclays Capital: 1-Overweight ($155)

Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes remains upbeat about Apple's product pipeline, maintaining an Overweight rating on the company's shares and edging his price target up from $143 to $155.

"In short, we believe the 2Q09 report was very solid and should provide more fuel for shares into the summer ahead of major new product launches and a potential return of Steve Jobs," he said. "We look forward to hearing from Apple next at its Worldwide Developers Conference June 8-12 in San Francisco and then we expect another major new product event in September."

Needham & Co: Strong Buy ($200)

Needham & Co. analyst Charlie Wolf, always one of the more colorful analysts covering Apple, maintained his Strong Buy rating and $200 price target on shares of the company.

"In an economy that shows only tentative signs of recovery, Apple reported what must be viewed as an outstanding quarter," he said. "The bigger news not captured in second quarter results is the phenomenal success of the iPhone/iPod touch App Store. [...] In our view, the iPhone is building a software competitive advantage in the smartphone market that competing platforms will find difficult, if not impossible to challenge. This advantage, in turn, should translate into market share gains for the iPhone down the road.

Caris & Company: Buy ($150)

Caris $ Co. analyst Robert Cihra reiterated his Buy rating and $150 price target on shares of Apple, adding that he sees "big" iPhone opportunity going forward.

"We continue to model a refresh to iPhone 3.0 late-June and lower priced model w/ China ramping CQ3E," he wrote. "We haven’t modeled but also continue to see the prospect of a new 7-inch iPhone-like Mac tablet (“iPad”?), particularly as Windows 7 now gets set to add native touchscreen support (including multi-finger touch) and we imagine Apple will want to have a competing large-screen touch Mac, particularly given its own in-house capacitive touch-sensing tech/investments."

RBC Capital Markets: Outperform ($165)

Even Royal Bank of Canada analyst Mike Abramsky crawled out from under his rock, upgrading shares of Apple from Underperform to Outperform and boosting his price target on the stock by a whopping $70 from a dismal $95 to a more respectable $165.

"Apple's valuation has outperformed Nasdaq by 37%, despite decelerating Macs, recession, management uncertainty," he said. "We underestimated Apple's 'VIP,' investor willingness to look beyond near-term challenges, focus on iPhone leadership and the stability of cash, and belief Apple will continue to out-innovate peers. We believe Steve Jobs is already reengaged with creative work, and is likely to return to helm Apple."

Other analyst

Goldman Sachs's David Bailey reiterated his Neutral rating and edged his price target from $125 to $130.

Citigroup's Richard Gardner reiterated his Buy rating and nudged his price target to $152 from $147.

Bernstein Research's Toni Sacconaghi maintained his Outperform rating and bumped his price target from $135 to $140.

Pacific Crest's Andy Hargreaves reiterated his Buy rating and raised his price target to $150 from $120.

Morgan Stanley's Kathryn Huberty maintained an Equal Weight rating with a price target of $105, up from $100.