Why Apple will be able to thrive despite trade war


Apple CEO Tim Cook visits an Apple store in Shanghai, China.

Aly Song | Reuters

Apple’s stock is helping lead U.S. stocks higher on Monday, buoyed by the possibility of re-opened trade negotiations with China, but a couple of Wall Street firms say the technology giant is better positioned than some might think even if the trade war continues.

“While the tariffs and trade standoff contributing to a softer macro backdrop are a source of earnings risk for Apple, we see certain silver linings relative to timing that might allow Apple to navigate the challenging dynamic better than investors currently expect,” J.P. Morgan analyst Samik Chatterjee said in a note to investors.

Apple’s stock rose 1.6% in trading from its previous close of $202.64 a share, leading the rise in the Dow Jones industrial average on Monday. J.P. Morgan has an overweight rating on Apple with a $243 price target.

One of J.P. Morgan’s silver linings is the timing of Apple’s new line of iPhones, set to launch next month. The firm estimates the iPhone is 55% of Apple’s revenue.

While Chatterjee said that how new tariffs are implemented Dec. 15 is still uncertain, the iPhone launch will avoid a bill-of-materials increase in cost of between $30 to $50 per iPhone. This will allow the company to better absorb the cost of the tariffs without raising prices yet for U.S. buyers.

D.A. Davidson analyst Tom Forte noted that his firm sees “China as the greatest risk for AAPL,” citing the company’s reliance on China for supplies and its sales to Chinese consumers. D.A. Davidson has a buy rating on Apple with a $270 a share price target.

“That said, we believe the situation may not be as bad as investors’ fear,” Forte said.

Forte said Apple has done “an amazing job” of mitigating the impact of tariffs, especially by working with the U.S. government. Apple has helped get an “exclusion of products from previous tariffs and the delay of a tariff to enable it to have, at least, one more window of opportunity to sell next-generation iPhones without being affected by tariffs,” Forte noted.

“We believe Apple is one of the few U.S. companies that has the ability to lobby BOTH the U.S. and Chinese governments to minimize the impact of tariffs on it,” Forte added.

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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