(Bloomberg) — Even as Apple Inc.’s shares have powered their way to a fresh record high, worries over cooling demand for iPhones and sputtering growth at its services business have left the biggest US company with the fewest bullish analyst ratings in more than two years.
UBS Group AG is the latest broker to take a step back, cutting the technology behemoth this week to neutral from buy. That leaves Apple with buy ratings from 67% of the analysts who follow the company, the lowest since late 2020 and the worst among megacap peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Turning less bullish on the stock is a big risk for analysts, since Apple has been a standout performer for years — its market value is inching toward $3 trillion — and it’s widely held by institutional investors. Yet skeptics see a lack of fresh catalysts for the rally that has lifted the shares 41% this year to $183.77. Shares were little changed after the downgrade on Tuesday.
IPhone and Mac demand could come under pressure in the second half of the year, while growth at its services unit —- which includes the app store, Apple Music, Apple TV and other subscription products — is slowing, UBS’s David Vogt said in a report dated Monday.
While he nudged his price target on the stock higher to $190 from $180, this implies only a 3% gain from Monday’s close. The stock, at 29 times estimated earnings, trades at a 50% premium to the broader market, the most in a decade, Vogt said.
“We do not believe Apple shares offer a compelling risk/reward particularly in light of soft iPhone, PC, and app store fundamentals over the next 6-12 months,” Vogt wrote.
Apple’s 2023 advance, which lifted the stock to a record for the first time in more than a year, has outpaced the 35% gain of the Nasdaq 100 Index.
(Updates to add stock move in third paragraph.)
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