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Piper Sandler raises Apple target price on promise of AI

Renders of a possible designs for the iPhone 16 range

Investment firm Piper Sandler says the market is right to be excited by Apple Intelligence, and also that it sees a return to iPhone growth in the key market of China.

Based on both AI and China, Wedbush has said it expects a "monumental" and "massive upgrade super cycle" for the forthcoming iPhone 16 range. Piper Sandler's Matt Farrell, taking over from Harsh Kumar, predicts much the same, and says that excitement is warranted, yet it's also being more cautious.

That's because it says since Apple's stock is up over 30% since April 2024, "we feel like a lot of good news is already priced into the stock." Therefore it's keeping its Apple rating Neutral, although it's also raising the price target from $190 to $225.

Piper Sandler is also a little hesitant over the idea of an upgrade super cycle. Its analysts currently say that such a super cycle is certainly possible, but doesn't see that the recent stock moves necessarily support that.

On the other hand, Piper Sandler also sees what it describes as a small but growing risk that global inflation means consumer spending is slowing down. It argues that an iPhone can be seen as a must-have, but thinks macro economics could dampen demand for Apple Intelligence.

That said, Piper Sandler notes the news that Apple is placing significantly higher orders for the iPhone 16 range. Its analysts call this encouraging, but repeat that the excitement about the release has already impacted the stock about as much as it will.

Regarding the important Chinese market, Piper Sandler notes that shipments of all non-local smartphones to the country were up around 40% year over year. It says that this is an acceleration after a slow start to the year.