Apple 2.0

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About those new, more flexible Apple price targets

April 12, 2013: 9:59 AM ET

Some Apple analysts got burned on the way up, others on the way down.

Source: RBC Capital

Source: RBC Capital

FORTUNE -- Doesn't your heart go out to the Wall Street analysts who have to try to predict the future movement of Apple's (AAPL) shares?

Anybody who set a price target below $300 last year looked pretty stupid when the stock topped $700 in September. On the other hand, the guy with the $1,111 target had some explaining to do in January when the stock fell below $450.

So analysts covering this volatile equity have devised several strategies for fudging their calls.

When he was watching Apple for Gleacher and Co., Brian Marshall -- now at ISI -- began contrasting the bull thesis to the bear thesis, leaving open the question of where exactly he stood.

Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty adopted what you might call the Goldilocks approach. She offers three price targets -- bull, base and bear -- and chooses the one that's neither too hot nor too cold.

Now RBC Capital's Amit Daryanani has introduced a new variation. In a note to clients Friday in which he lowered his fiscal Q2 2013 estimates ("our checks suggest AAPL saw weaker demand in March coupled with mix headwinds") he also lowered his price target, to $550 from $600. But he accompanied the change with the graphic above that put his new price target in a continuum that includes a downside scenario ($350) and an upside ($700).

If Apple lands anywhere in between those two points in the next 12 month, how can we say that he was wrong?

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About This Author
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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