So much for a rally to start the year. After a strong Thursday performance, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) sank on Friday following news that a U.S. airstrike had killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, ramping up tensions between the two countries. Also dampening investors’ spirits was a weak reading on the Institute for Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ index, which measures U.S. factory activity.
The Dow was down 0.84% at 11 a.m. EST, with all 30 components in negative territory. Outperforming the index were Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM). Two analyst price target bumps prevented Apple stock from falling too much, and Exxon’s disclosure of significant gains from an asset sale kept losses for the oil stock small.
Apple gets some analyst love
With Apple stock soaring 85% in 2019, it’s not too surprising to see bullish analysts piling on after the fact. On Friday, Apple received two price target boosts from analysts at Bank of America and RBC Capital Markets. Both now see Apple rising to $330 per share, up from roughly $300 today.
This analyst optimism wasn’t enough to lift Apple on a rough day for the stock market. Shares of the tech giant were down 0.6% in the morning.
Strong iPhone demand was the core reason for the price target bumps from both analysts, with RBC noting that the latest iPhone 11 was producing more social media mentions than its predecessor. RBC expects Apple to report solid holiday-quarter sales thanks to the iPhone.
Bank of America based its price target bump on other parts of Apple’s business as well. BofA expects strong results from wearables and the App Store, and in the long run, it sees 5G adoption benefiting Apple. Apple is expected to launch a 5G-capable iPhone in 2020, although the jury is still out on how much consumers really care about 5G technology.
While iPhone demand appears to be strong in the U.S., China is a different story. Credit Suisse said last month that iPhone sales in China had plunged 35.4% in November, a sign that Apple’s comeback in the country is in jeopardy. It remains to be seen whether strong iPhone demand elsewhere can offset weakness in China.
While analysts are generally optimistic on Apple, the stock is more expensive than it’s been in more than a decade. Shares trade for around 25 times trailing-12-month earnings, a lofty valuation for a company worth well over $1 trillion.
Exxon sees big gain from Norway asset sale
Shares of Exxon were down just 0.25% Friday morning, outperforming the broader market. A combination of renewed tensions in the Middle East and an update from the company on asset sales seems to be driving the outperformance.
In an SEC filing on Friday, Exxon laid out various factors that will affect its earnings in the fourth quarter relative to the third quarter. Exxon expects to realize a gain of between $3.4 billion and $3.6 billion from the sale of oil and gas assets in Norway, boosting fourth-quarter results. This gain will help offset lower expected margins in the refining and chemical businesses.
Exxon is targeting $25 billion of total asset sales as it looks to shed noncore operations and use the proceeds to invest in projects with higher potential returns on investment. Shares of Exxon were up just 2.3% in 2019, badly trailing the Dow’s 22% return.