Apple 2.0

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Trailing indicators: Analysts' price targets vs. Apple's shares

May 14, 2013: 6:26 AM ET

Do analysts' forecasts really predict Apple's future or merely reflect the recent past?

Barclays' Ben Reitzes

Barclays' Ben Reitzes

FORTUNE -- Whenever I write about a change in a particular analyst's price target for Apple (AAPL) -- his or her forecast of what the stock is likely to be worth in 12 months -- readers invariably suggest that it would be more useful to show how that target has changed over time.

I think I know what's behind these suggestions: A suspicion, especially after the gyrations of the past year, that the analysts who follow Apple are not so much predicting the stock's future value as scrambling to catch up to what the market has already done.

I don't have the data to test that thesis in a general way, but for many individual analysts it's easily obtained: They provide a history of their forecasts as matter of course at the bottom of the notes they send to clients.

I attached a sample. For the period in question, I think the charts speak for themselves -- although I must say that some speak a lot more clearly than others.

Goldman Sachs' Bill Shope: 

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 5.35.35 AM

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Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.45.55 AM

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Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi: 

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Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.58.08 AM

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Jefferies' Peter Misek:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.44.57 AM

Needham's Charlie Wolf:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.45.27 AM

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BCG's Colin Gillis: 

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Merrill Lynch's Scott Craig: 

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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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