Apple, Inc. Stock Bounces Back -- Too Late to Buy?

By Markets Fool.com

Since Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) stock hit a 52-week low of just under $90 earlier this year, shares have recovered 20%. Much of this gain followed the company's better-than-expected fiscal 2016 third-quarter earnings report in July. While the stock's rebound may be nice for shareholders, some investors who were on the fence about buying shares may feel like they've missed out. But a closer look at the stock reveals shares still look attractive.

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Image source: The Motley Fool.

Here are three reasons I'm still bullish with shares trading under $108.

1. Apple stock isn't priced for growth. In other words, Apple shareholders can still earn meaningful returns if Apple's business fails to grow. A basic discounted cash flow valuation of Apple stock -- even a valuation with very conservative assumptions built into the model -- easily illustrates this point.

For instance, a discounted cash flow valuation projecting Apple's trailing-12-month free cash flow will increase by just 3% annually -- or about in line with the historical rate of inflation -- pegs the present value of Apple's future free cash flows at $129 per share when using a 10% discount rate to account for the time value of money and the risk associated with investing in stocks. And what really makes this valuation conservative is that it leaves Apple's excess cash totally out of the equation.

So, based on the underwhelming projection that Apple can only boost free cash flow by about 3% annually over the long haul, shares are trading at approximately a 17% discount to fair value today -- leaving a meaningful margin of safety for investors who buy at $108.

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2. Worries are overblown. The main concern in the media today about Apple's business is the company's declining iPhone sales in recent quarters. The problem was official in the first fiscal quarter of 2016; with iPhone revenue up just 1%, it was clear the year of Apple's iPhone 6s would likely fail to live up to the iPhone 6's precedence. And this is exactly what proceeded to happen. Q2's iPhone revenue was down 18% and Q3's was down 23%.

Ouch. Right?

It's not as bad as it looks -- at least not to investors willing to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

iPhone 6s. Image source: Apple.

iPhone sales in the year of Apple's flagship iPhone 6s cycle aren't weak by any means. They're just coming up shy of the company's year-ago blockbuster iPhone 6 cycle. During this year, iPhone sales skyrocketed, with year-over-year growth between 22% and 46% in each quarter of fiscal 2015. This makes for very tough comparisons in 2016.

And here's another way to look at it. Zooming out two years provides a different perspective: Apple's iPhone sales in fiscal Q3 are up 15% from the same quarter two years ago.

3. Apple's brand can carry over to new segments. There's an enormous benefit to Apple's relentless focus on the consumer experience. The company can enter new segments with clout that even established industry incumbents can only dream about. For instance, Apple successfully entered -- and subsequently dominated -- both the mp3 and cellphone market with its iPod and iPhone. As the company grows, Apple could bring the same brand and pricing power to other segments, such as the nascent wearables segment and autos.

When viewing Apple's excellent track record in combination with its cheap valuation, Apple stock still looks like a steal under $110. Sure, there may be some volatility ahead, but investors willing to hold for five or more years will likely look back and be happy they bought a slice of this incredible brand.

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Daniel Sparks owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.