Apple shares scale to new heights

Stock hits new all-time high following target-price increases by analysts

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Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) hit a new all-time high of 427.75 on Monday after two analysts raised their target prices.

Apple's previous share-price high was 426.70, set last October 17. The company's stock also had previous all-time highs last September and July.

The stock finished the day down 67 cents, or 0.2%, to 421.73.

In raising his target share price to $550 from $520, Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope upped earnings per share estimates for Apple's fiscal 2012 first quarter (which includes the holiday-shopping season) to $9.94 from $9.44, above the consensus estimate of $9.87. The analyst increased his Q1 revenue estimate to $38.18 billion from $37.06 billion.

Shope also increased his estimates of Q1 iPhone sales to 31 million units from 30.2 million and indicated he expected a robust year for Apple, writing to clients, “We believe Apple is set to report healthy December quarter upside and all signs point to better than expected performance through 2012.”

Meanwhile, Needham analyst Charlie Wolf increased his Q1 profit forecast to $10.85 a share from $9.55, pinning most of his bullishness on a drastically revised estimate of iPhone sales to 32 million units from 28 million.

Apple is scheduled to report Q1 results on January 24.

In last year's fiscal first quarter, Apple reported a net profit of $6.43 a share on revenue of $26.74, selling 16.24 million iPhones and 7.33 million iPads. If Apple slightly exceeds Wolf's forecast, it will double iPhone sales over a year ago.

Impressive, though it should be kept in mind that a year ago, neither Verizon nor Sprint carried Apple's smartphone, which was distributed in the U.S. solely by AT&T until last February, when Verizon became the second U.S. carrier to sell the iPhone (with Sprint being added last October).

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