Apple (AAPL) is facing a steady drip of reports that iPhone sales are slowing, resulting in production cuts at its contract manufacturers in Asia.
The latest such reports are from Wall Street firms Nomura Instinet, JPMorgan and Bernstein. Bernstein said Wednesday that it sees iPhone unit sales of 76 million to 84 million, or 80 million at the midpoint, in the December quarter, vs. the consensus estimate of 79.2 million.
But Apple could give implied iPhone unit guidance for the March quarter that is well below consensus estimates of 62.1 million, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said in a note to clients. Apple could guide to 51 million to 57 million iPhone unit sales for the current quarter, he said.
“Our analysis points to a sequential decline in iPhone units of 33%, which is only modestly higher than the (roughly) 30% decline Apple has seen in each of the last two years from December to March,” Sacconaghi said. Bernstein rates Apple stock as outperform with a price target of 195.
Apple shares fell 1.6% to close at 174.22 on the stock market today. Apple has fallen below the buy point of 176.34 it reached on Dec. 18, after it broke out of a five-week flat base. It struggled to remain above that level in the weeks that followed, but managed to notch an all-time high of 180.10 last Thursday.
Bernstein also said December-quarter iPhone sales are shaping up in line with expectations, while March-quarter sales appear headed for a slightly higher-than-normal seasonal decline.
Bernstein’s analysis is based on reports from 10 companies that have both high revenue exposure to Apple and a strong historical correlation with iPhone revenue. Only two of those are traded in the U.S.: Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASX) and Skyworks Solutions (SWKS).
On Wednesday, Nomura Instinet lowered its iPhone sales estimates for the March quarter and full fiscal year based on “soft demand data points and negative revisions in the supply chain.”
Nomura lowered its March iPhone estimate by 3 million units to 60 million, compared with the consensus estimate of 62 million. It cut its iPhone estimate for the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 29, by 5 million units to 240 million, in line with consensus. Nomura rates Apple stock as neutral with a price target of 175.
Bernstein and Nomura followed comments from JPMorgan, which said Tuesday that it saw more signs of weakening iPhone X sales and forecast a production cut of 50% in the March quarter vs. the December quarter for Apple’s flagship handset.