Wall Street extended its love affair with Apple Inc as strong iPhone sales allayed concerns it was losing market share in the cut-throat smartphone market, with analysts again rushing to raise price targets on the shares of the world' most valuable company.

At least 14 brokerages revised their targets on the stock by $40 on average, a day after the company posted a quarterly profit that blew past Wall Street estimates.

Apple shares were up 9 percent at $608.40 in early trading on Wednesday, valuing the company at $575.2 billion.

It was the biggest intraday percentage gain by Apple shares in more than three years.

Last night, Apple's performance once again demonstrated how quickly Apple fever is spreading around the world and this trend continues to drive meaningful upside in the company's financial results, Topeka Capital Markets' Brian White said.

White, who was the first to breach the $1,000 price-target mark with his $1,001 stock-price forecast for Apple earlier this month, raised it further to $1,111.

The strong results followed a 13 percent decline in the company's shares over the past couple of weeks that erased about $78 billion from its market value.

Analysts discounted worries about rising competition and pricing pressures, noting the company's stronger margins in particular.

Apple's margin upside has the most important long-term implications for the story, said Goldman analyst Bill Shope, who raised his target price on the stock by $100 to $850.

Citigroup was a bit more conservative with its $20 increase to $720.

Helped by lower-than-expected commodity costs, Apple's gross margins climbed to 47.4 percent from 41.4 percent a year earlier.

Kulbinder Garcha, an analyst with Credit Suisse, said he expects gross margins to fade a bit off the second quarter's high-base, but added that supply-chain efficiencies and lower component prices will continue to help.

Apple is building its efficient supply chain, and component reuse which is unprecedented in the tech industry.

Analysts at Canaccord Genuity, RBC Capital Markets, Barclays Capital, Robert W. Baird, Wedbush Securities and BMO Capital Markets also boosted their price targets on the stock. All assigned the stock a buy or its equivalent rating.


Analysts expect iPhone sales to drop or stay flat in the next two quarters ahead of the iPhone 5 launch expected later this year. In the second quarter, Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones, accounting for about half its revenue.

Based on the remarkable iPhone sales, Apple's share of the smartphone market likely increased to 24 percent in the first quarter from 23 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, said analysts at Canaccord Genuity.

IPhone sales are likely to decline meaningfully in second calendar quarter. However, our colleagues in Asia still believe that iPhone 5 will contribute meaningfully to Apple's September quarter results, prompting a sharp rebound in third calendar quarter, Citigroup analysts said.

According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 22 analysts rate the stock strong buy, 23 rate it buy, seven rate it a hold' and only one rates it strong sell.

(Reporting by Tenzin Pema and Himank Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Ted Kerr)