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Monday, July 16, 2012, 05:02 am PT (08:02 am ET)

Investors advised to own Apple stock ahead of June quarter earnings

With Apple's quarterly earnings report just over a week away, one prominent analyst is recommending that investors buy in before the stock rockets to $910.

Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray issued a note to investors on Monday in which he said he believes Apple will report sales of between 28 million and 29 million iPhones for its June quarter. That's slightly higher than Wall Street consensus of between 25 million and 27 million.

"We believe investors should own AAPL going into the June quarter earnings as we expect the company to report iPhone units better than low expectations of the buy side," Munster wrote.

The analyst said he is "confident" that iPhone sales could be better than Wall Street expectations, particularly given what he referred to as "sustained weakness" at rivals Research in Motion and Nokia. Piper Jaffray's price target for AAPL remains at $910.

But in what he called the "bigger picture," Munster doesn't think the June iPhone number will matter all that much. He thinks investor expectations for the current quarter concluding in September will be "reset" ahead of the anticipated debut of a new iPhone model in October.

"We expect a more conservative guide than usual because of our belief that the iPhone 5 will launch in October, while the Street has mixed expectations in terms of pricing," he said. Munster's iPhone sales projection for the September quarter was reduced accordingly from 26 million to 24 million.

Piper


As for the iPad, he believes Apple will report sales of 16 million units, which is roughly in line with Wall Street expectations. The iPhone is expected to account for about half of Apple's sales, while the iPad will represent 24 percent.

However, Munster cautioned that the iPad is the "toughest of the three product lines" to predict, given how new the tablet market is and how thoroughly Apple controls it. But he feels comfortable forecasting that sales to have grown 73 percent year over year, which would represent a "meaningful step-down from previous iPad growth rates."

"We note that iPad units have been up an average of 153% [year over year] over the past four quarters," he said. "We note that iPads have remained in stock over the past several weeks on the Apple Store, suggesting supply is meeting demand."

Munster's iPad projection is lower than analyst Charlie Wolf with Needham & Company, who forecast last week that Apple sold 20 million units in its June quarter. Both analysts have largely similar predictions for iPhone sales, however, as Wolf believes Apple will report 28 million units.

Apple will report earnings for its third fiscal quarter of 2012 during a conference call on Tuesday, July 24, at 2 p.m. Pacific, 5 p.m. Eastern. AppleInsider will have full, live coverage of the call.