Apple tumbles on consumer spending concerns

BOSTON (Reuters) - Apple Inc shares tumbled 16 percent on Monday, their biggest drop in seven years, amid concerns the maker of Mac computers and other consumer electronics will suffer as the economy slows.

A customer leaves an Apple Store with his new iPhone 3G in New York July 11, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Two brokerages cut their price targets, earnings forecasts and stock recommendations on the company, which also makes iPod music players and iPhones.

“We worry that consensus estimates have not been revised down to reflect slowing global consumer demand and that a broadly positive investment bias ... limits upside to (Apple) shares over the next three to six months,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Kathryn Huberty.

She said that Wall Street remains overly bullish on shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple, with 27 of 32 analysts “overweight” on the stock. Morgan Stanley cut its price target to $115 from $178 and its recommendation on Apple to “equal-weight” from “overweight”.

She also cut her fiscal 2009 profit forecast to $5.47 per share from $5.91.

Including Monday’s decline the stock has lost more than one third of its value over the past month.

RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky said in a note to investors that the percentage of consumers planning to buy a personal computer over the next 90 days who intend to get a Mac rather than PC from another manufacturer posted its biggest decline in the last two-and-a-half years from August to September.

He cited results of a monthly survey that his firm conducts with research firm Changewave that looks at demand for PCs from Apple, Dell Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co and other manufacturers.

Abramsky downgraded the stock to “sector perform” from “outperform” and cut his price target to $140 from $200.

He cut his earnings forecasts for 2008, 2009 and 2010. Shares of Apple fell $20.36 to $107.88 in heavy morning trade on Nasdaq.

Hewlett-Packard, the world’s biggest PC maker, fell 1.9 percent on the New York Stock Exchange and Dell fell 4.3 percent on Nasdaq.

Research in Motion Ltd, maker of the iPhone rival BlackBerry device, fell 3.3 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in New York; Editing by Derek Caney