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Apple stock drop seen as latest buying opportunity

Tuesday's sharp decline in Apple's share price is just the latest opportunity for investors to buy into or increase their positions in the multi-faceted electronics company, say analysts at investment bank Piper Jaffray.

Company shares remained down $17.44 or 11.21 percent to $138.20 in pre-market trading following the firm's fiscal first quarter earnings report and guidance, which combined to spook investors who fear the gadget maker may not be able to maintain its momentum given evidence of a faltering macro economy.

Sentiment was particularly soured by the company's March quarter guidance, which came in 15 percent below Wall Street's expectation. Year-over-year iPod growth also slowed considerably, coming in at just 5 percent compared to 50 percent for the same period last year.

But in a research note to clients Wednesday morning, analyst Gene Munster said he believes investors are overreacting to the fiscal report and outlook, even given the fact that iPod sales are indeed decelerating.

"Over the last 7 quarters, on average, Apple has guided earnings-per-share (EPS) 9 percent below Street expectations," he wrote. "While the March quarter EPS guidance is more conservative than average, Apple's revenue guidance for the quarter is [only] 2 percent below Street expectations, vs. an average of 4 percent below expectations over the last 7 quarters."

The analyst also pointed out that decelerating iPod sales are nothing new, as slowing growth of the media players has been evident every quarter since the June 2005 quarter with the exception of three-month period ending December 2006. This deceleration, however, has been offset by year-over-year Mac growth rates which have been on the up-and-up, he explained.

"Mac market share continues to rise, and growth rates are accelerating," Munster advised clients. "Using IDC estimates, Mac market share in December 07 was 3.0 percent, or 50 basis points higher than in December 06, [which represents] the largest gain in Mac market share since we began tracking IDC data seven quarters ago."

PJC Charts

Furthermore, the Piper Jaffray analyst noted that Tuesday's approximate 15 percent drop in Apple's stock price means shares are now trading at just 25 times the company's expected per-share earnings over the next twelve months, down from a two-year average of 31 times and a two-year low of 24 times.

Munster, who previously placed Apple on his firm's Alpha list, maintained his Buy rating and $250 price target on shares of the company.