Apple shares hit high for 2013 on holiday hope
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
(USA Today) - Apple shares rose to the highest level this year as investors bet products like the latest iPads and iPhones will be hot sellers this holiday, helping the consumer technology giant kick-start earnings growth again.
The stock climbed 1.9% to $556.07 Friday. Earlier in the day, it touched $594.59, a 2013 high.
Apple unveiled two new iPhones earlier this year and more recently launched the new iPad Air and an upgraded iPad mini.
The iPad mini was among top sellers at Walmart on Thanksgiving, while Target said the iPad Air was a hot item at its stores. On eBay.com, one iPad was selling every second as of midnight on Thanksgiving.
'Apple products should be the holiday gift of choice this year,' said Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group. 'The company has a great product cycle currently, the stock is cheap and we expect $600 within the next several months.'
Apple gadgets are also popular shopping tools. Mobile devices running on the company's iOS operating system -- basically iPads and iPhones -- made up more than a quarter of all online traffic to major retail websites early on Black Friday. These devices also accounted for 18% of all online sales in the period, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.
Apple shares have lagged technology sector rivals and the broader stock market this year on concern about a lack of earnings growth and a slim pipeline of new products.
However, investors have recently become more confident that earnings growth will resume in 2014, according to Walter Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG.
There's also hope that China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in that country, will soon start selling Apple products, he noted.
Japan's largest carrier, NTT Docomo, recently started offering iPhones and that helped Apple grab 76% of smartphone sales in the country in October, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
'We would attribute the recent jump [in Apple shares] to a combination of renewed China Mobile speculation and strong product positioning heading into the holidays, including much improved iPhone supply,' said Will Power, an analyst at RW Baird.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, checked 60 Apple stores recently and found that 90% of iPhone 5s models were available on average. That was up from 31% two weeks earlier and 10% at the beginning of October.
'We view the improvement in supply as an encouraging sign that Apple has begun to catch up to demand,' Munster wrote in a note to investors.