Goldman Sachs initiates coverage of AAPL stock with neutral outlook, dismisses iPhone X 'super cycle' hype

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Investment firm Goldman Sachs initiated coverage of the investment world's largest company, Apple, this week, and set things off with a pessimistic tone, projecting the stock price will stay relatively flat over the next year.

Analyst Rod Hall opened coverage of AAPL with a "neutral" rating and a 12-month price target of $161, which would be slightly lower than the levels the company was trading at as of Wednesday morning.

In a note to investors, a copy of which was seen by AppleInsider, the analyst forecast "weakening near-term datapoints on iPhone X demand," which he thinks could hold back shares ahead of its fiscal second quarter earnings report. He also sees downside to consensus iPhone revenue forecasts for the following June quarter.

"Beyond June, we see a path for earnings and share price improvement, but believe investors will look for confidence that estimates have bottomed, which may not occur until (fiscal year 2019)," Hall wrote.

Apple reported its best quarter ever last week, though iPhone sales came in below market expectations. However, the quarter was also one week shorter than the same period a year ago, somewhat skewing the results.

Still, bullish analysts had predicted a so-called "super cycle" spurred by the launch of the iPhone X, the first major redesign for Apple's handset since the iPhone 6 series.

Hall's projections, meanwhile, call for iPhone shipments to dip to 54.6 million in the current March quarter, which would be a 29 percent sequential decrease, and largely in line with typical seasonal trends. To him, that's evidence that the "super cycle" hype was misguided.

Still, he sees hope on the horizon, particularly as Apple plans to repatriate the majority of its overseas cash. Hall sees the stateside funds allowing for increased share buybacks, higher dividend payouts, and larger and more meaningful mergers and acquisitions.

Shares of AAPL were off slightly as of Wednesday morning, trading just north of $162. The company is down from its high of near $180 achieved in January.