Merrill Lynch recommends Apple, lowers price target


Philip Elmer-DeWitt is a senior editor at Fortune.

FORTUNE -- In an odd research note issued Monday, Merrill Lynch's Scott Craig lowered his price target on Apple (aapl) to $780 from $840 even while assuring clients he "remains positive despite recent volatility."

He attributes the stock's recent eight-week sell-off to four factors:

(1) investors locking in profits heading into the year-end and a potential capital gain tax increase in 2013,
(2) perceived less than stellar iPhone 5 launch,
(3) near term margin pressure and
(4) competition.

"Although we do not expect these uncertainties to alleviate near term," he concludes, "we remain positive on current product cycles and believe the stock offers a very attractive balance of growth and value."

Even at $780, Craig's new price target is higher than the Street's consensus, which according to Thomson/First Call now stands at $763.92.

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