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February Mac sales up 43%, Apple on track for 2.9M in quarter

New retail sales data shows Apple has continued to have strong Mac and iPod sales at the start of 2010, with February's numbers showing significant year-over-year growth.

Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray issued a note to investors Monday afternoon detailing the latest retail sales data from the NPD Group. Mac sales in the month of February were up 43 percent for the month, which followed a similarly strong January increase of 36 percent. In all, Mac sales for the first two months of 2010 are up 39 percent year over year.

The latest retail data suggests that Apple will sell between 2.8 million and 2.9 million Macs in the March quarter, which is above Wall Street's consensus of 2.7 million Macs.

Strong Mac sales were accompanied by better-than-expected iPod sales as well, influencing Munster to call February an "impressive" month for Apple. iPod sales in the first two months of 2010 were up 7 percent, an increase in sales for the first time in over a year.

The numbers are particularly favorable for Apple because 2009 got off to a slow start, putting the Cupertino, Calif., company in a position to exceed when compared to the soft numbers from a year ago. In February 2009, Mac sales dipped 16 percent year-over-year.

The data also shows that the average selling price of Macs is down 10 percent year-over-year, while iPod prices were up 3 percent from the same frame in 2009.

The latest NPD numbers have provided even more confidence to Munster and Piper Jaffray, who have called 2010 the "Year of the Mac." He said Monday that the easing comparisons from 2009 represent a buying opportunity for investors.

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Apple of late has consistently delivered blowout quarterly results. During the three-month holiday frame, the company sold a record 3.36 million Macs, helping it to achieve a 50 percent spike in profits. Another 2.9 million Macs for the first quarter of calendar 2010 would be a very strong start for Apple.

Piper Jaffray has maintained its overweight rating for AAPL stock, and a 12-month price target of $284.