Did J.P. Morgan's Foxconn analyst forget about Brazil?

September 26, 2011: 11:30 AM ET

A report out of Apple's Asian supply chain may have sent the wrong signal to Wall Street

Apple (AAPL) shares fell sharply in early trading Monday following a widely reported note to clients from J.P. Morgan's Gokul Hariharan to the effect that multiple supply chain vendors in Asia have registered a 25% cut in fourth-quarter iPad 2 orders from Apple -- "the first cut ever we've seen" according to Hariharan. (Business Insider's headline: HOLY CRAP: Apple Just Cut iPad Orders By 25%.)

Given that Hariharan is paid to cover Foxconn (the trademark of Taiwan-based Hon Hai), Apple's major supplier, he was understandably concerned about what such a cut would do to Foxconn's profit margins and the profits of its Asian partners.

What Hariharan -- and the traders who dumped Apple shares on the news -- seem to have missed were the reports out of South American that Foxconn, in partnership with the Brazilian government, has built an iPad plant in Brazil that is ready to start churning out product by December.

The stock recovered somewhat after several analysts stepped forward to pour cold water on the J.P. Morgan report.

"Apple purposely maintains enough suppliers and manufacturing partners to make any one supply-side data point inconclusive," wrote Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who mentioned the fact that Apple is transitioning to Brazilian manufacturing.

"We believe the report out of JPM is extraordinarily misleading," echoed Bullish Cross' Andy Zaky, "given that it attempts draw a conclusion regarding Apple's expectations which are simply not founded in evidence."

UPDATE: In a rare eruption of internecine conflict, J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz has formally disavowed his Asian colleague's report, according to Bloomberg. That report "has the equity markets worried about Apple," Moskowitz wrote. It "focuses on how Hon Hai could be impacted by potential iPad sell-in order cuts. This alert is not the view of the U.S. IT hardware team."

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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