Will This Data Keep Apple Bears at Bay?

On Friday, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech released data showing that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) achieved its highest share of U.S. smartphone sales ever, taking 53.3 percent of the smartphone market for the 12 weeks ended November 25. This is the first time that Apple has passed the 50 percent share mark.

Does this mean the bears should go back to sleep?

“Apple has reached a major milestone in the US by passing the 50% mark for the first time, with further gains expected to be made during December,” comments Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at Kantar. He offered no predictions on what those gains could look like, but with personal income and outlays on the rise in November, the holiday season could continue to be kind to Apple, despite what many analysts are saying.

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But investors and observers know that a string of analysts have come out recently with what many consider unusual calls on Apple. Shares have come down over 25 percent in the last three months and are trading below their 200-day moving average, and analysts have traded their bull horns for bear skins. A consensus has grown among some analysts that Apple won’t be able to keep it sales numbers up.

Bloomberg reported earlier in the week that at least five well-known analysts adjusted their expectations lower to reflect weak sales during the holiday season. An analyst at Pacific Crest Securities reduced his projection for 2013 iPhone customers from 84.3 million to 62.4 million, saying that the device was at a saturation point. The price target was dropped from $645 to $565 per share.

An analyst at Citigroup suggested that Apple’s Asian suppliers have reported a drop in orders, which led to concern that iPhone 5 sales are falling off (despite 2 million sold in China over the weekend of the phone’s launch). He cut the stock’s rating from “Buy” to “Neutral” and moved the price target from $675 to $575 per share.

Perhaps king of the bears, ABG Sundal Collier initiated coverage of the stock with a “Sell” rating and a price target of just $400…