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Watching for the Apple Watch, Plus PPI -0.1%


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ahead of Wall Street this morning, most everyone will be dialed into Apple Inc.’s AAPL annual September event, at which consumers can see the latest and greatest from the world’s biggest company. The event kicks off at 1pm ET today, and takes place at the company’s spaceship-like headquarters on the Southwest Side of Silicon Valley in Cupertino, CA.

Before we get into expectations of new unveilings — which you can also read about here: “The Apple Story No One Is Talking About This Week” and here: “What to Look for in Apple’s Product Release” — there is an economic headline just released moments ago, and the results were worse than anticipated: the Producer Price Index (PPI) posted -0.1% on both the headline and “core” reads, far off the pace of +0.2% expected by analysts.

The -0.1% PPI for August was also 10 basis points beneath July’s unrevised 0.0%. This metric indicates the level of producer participation in lifting inflation depending on things like product demand. Its sister composite, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), will be released early Thursday, and between the two reads, economists (and Fed participants, who meet on interest rates next week) collect a solid narrative on commercial pricing in near-real time (one month removed).

Even the breakdowns, at first blush, seem to keep this suppressed narrative intact: subtracting volatile food and energy costs, the tally was +0.1%, still below expectations. Year over year, ex-food & energy PPI reached +2.8%, well below the 3.2% expected and the 3.4% from just a couple months ago. Again, we await the CPI read tomorrow to complete this narrative, but as analysts had been looking for inflation creeping into the economy, they’re not finding it on the producers’ side this August.

Apple’s Big Day

Today’s Apple event is expected to be more of a refresh of products on offer, rather than an unveiling of something brand new — as we had grown accustomed to in the final few years of Steve Jobs’ tenure as CEO of the company. A new series of iPhone products (which still makes up more than 50% of the company’s revenues) and other tech-centered gadgets will be attempting to wow today’s crowd.

Starting with the iPhone, an upgrade on the iPhone X, expected to be labeled the XS and retail for $799, should bring spiffier features to the iconic smartphone. There will also be a larger-screen version — a full inch bigger — called iPhone X Max, to retail for $999, which presumably will contain the same features. Finally, a “budget” iPhone, listing for $699, is also expected to be on offer.

Analyst also expect a fourth version of Apple Watch, which will bring a 15% larger screen size and higher resolution. The Apple Watch line has not produced the blockbuster sales initially expected when first brought to market, but certainly an upgrade would be aiming to change this. Also an upgrade to the Apple Air Pod, an iPad Pro 3 and a firm release date for the company’s new mobile iOS are expected to be addressed. Stay tuned for plenty of Zacks analyses on this event and all the new featured merchandise.

Apple is now the largest company in history, with a market capitalization of $1.08 trillion. The company hit all-time highs last month following an impressive fiscal Q3 earnings report, which included raised revenue guidance for full-year 2018 (ending September).

Apple boasts eight straight quarters of revenue growth, and when you’re selling as many items as this company has for as many years as it has, that’s quite impressive. Currently, the company carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) with a Style Score (Value – Growth – Momentum) of B.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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