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Apple | Fundamental Analysis

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NASDAQ:AAPL   Apple Inc
Over the past two decades, Apple has been one of the most valuable stocks on the market and during that time has become the most expensive company in the world. It has conquered the mobile computing era due to the success of the iPhone and supplemented its device business with a highly profitable ecosystem of services built around the App Store.

Like other stocks from the tech sector, however, Apple couldn't escape the 2022 market downturn, and the stock lost more than 25%.

Speaking about the prospects, investors are hoping for a rematch. But can Apple succeed? Let's take a look at what to expect from the iPhone maker in 2023 and whether the company can outperform the market.

In its latest earnings report for its fiscal Q4, Apple reported strong results. Revenue increased 8% to $90.1 billion, and earnings per share rose 4% to $1.29. Nevertheless, the company's management refused to give precise estimates amid the tension in the global economy.

For the key fiscal Q1, which is Apple's biggest of the year as it follows the release of its latest iPhone model, management declined to give earnings guidance because of uncertainty but said it expects revenue growth to slow compared to the September and December quarters. Management also projected a 10 percentage point currency windfall, although the dollar has decreased remarkably since it issued that forecast.

It's worth heeding CFO Luca Maestri's comment about the uncertainty. As a manufacturer of high-end consumer electronics, Apple is sensitive to the global economy, and a recession is likely to affect demand for its products. Consumers may delay upgrading to the latest iPhone model or switch to one of the cheaper models.

Apple was much smaller during the last recession in 2008-2009, but its growth slowed considerably, slowing from 35.3 percent in fiscal 2008 to 12.5 percent in fiscal 2009.

In a statement warning of the slowdown, the company did note that demand for the iPhone 14 was strong, a sign that the company may continue to grow during the year.

Apple usually keeps its product updates and releases secret, but this year there will be some big changes. As per Bloomberg, the company is expected to unveil a mixed reality headset later this year, possibly at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and it could be priced as high as $3,000.

Unlike all the new products the company has released in the past few years, this device has the potential to propel Apple if the meta-universe becomes popular. Given the company's leadership in consumer electronics, it looks to be a favorite in this area, despite the efforts of Meta Platforms, which is investing billions in Oculus and its VR technology.

Moving forward in its quest to develop more of its chips in-house, the company is also creating a new team to develop the wireless chips it previously bought from companies such as Broadcom and Skyworks. This project could take years to implement, but in the long run, it will likely save Apple on costs, differentiate its products and gain more control over its supply chain.

Right now, Apple stock is trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of 22, which is about as cheap as it has been since the pandemic began, and only slightly more expensive than the S&P 500 .

Given the company's dominant brand, competitive advantages, including an installed base of about 2 billion devices, and a high-margin services business, there are many reasons why the stock should trade at a premium to the broad market index.

Whether Apple can outperform the market in 2023 will likely be defined by the overall economic state. If the global economy continues to slide into recession, Apple is likely to suffer, especially if its profits decline. The good news, however, is that analysts' expectations are low, with revenue and earnings-per-share growth expected to be in the single digits. If stocks can beat those forecasts, and if the economy shows signs of recovery, Apple has a good chance of outperforming the market this year. Over the long term, a broad economic moat and solid demand growth should support the company's growth and its ability to return cash to shareholders.
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