Shaken to the Core: What Now For Apple’s Stock?

Now that Steve Jobs is out as Apple CEO, how will Wall Street react?

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David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty Images

So make that two earthquakes in one week on Wall Street.

First the real McCoy on Tuesday, then the financial equivalent on Wednesday afternoon, as Steve Jobs announced his resignation as Apple CEO (though he will remain as Chairman).

Here’s a roundup of key takeaways from the news, and what that means to Apple’s stock, which is trading around $370 a share.

What’s the consensus on Apple with Jobs out of the CEO picture?

Most Apple-watchers say that the Jobs resignation was actually expected. So it wasn’t a matter if Jobs would resign, it’s always been a matter of when.While Jobs’ resignation announcement yesterday was sudden, we believe that institutional investors widely expected that he would not return full time to the CEO role,” notes Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein. “The unfolding of events over the last three years has ultimately led to a pretty seamless transition to new CEO Tim Cook.”

What will drive Apple’s stock in a post-Jobs environment?

More of the same, Wall Street says. Apple has excelled in the smart phone and personal computing fields, and that story shouldn’t change. “We believe the uncertainty surrounding Mr. Jobs’ tenure has been a greater weight on the stock than the actual news will prove to be,” says Bill Shope, a technology company analyst at Goldman Sachs. “Our view has been and remains that Mr. Jobs’ reduced involvement does not change the long-term fundamentals. We expect investors will embrace Tim Cook as permanent CEO. Apple’s platform is now stronger than ever and can be successfully managed by Mr. Cook and Apple’s deep bench. Apple should enjoy a rich set of near-term catalysts, including a new iPhone and fully available iPad 2 as we head into the peak consumer season. The stock’s current P/E of 11.6 times is already a sizable discount to historical averages, and near the 10-year low of 10.6 times, while we see no direct risk to earnings from this news.”

Odds makers bearish on Apple stock
Unfortunately for Apple investors, there’s no “app” for a guaranteed higher share price. So who better than a British bookmaker to gauge the impact of Jobs’ resignation? London odds maker Paddy Power has already laid odds on where Apple stock will stand at the end of this year:

Odds Share Price

8-to-1                          Under $200

6-to-1                          $200 to $249.99

3-to-1                          $250 to $299.99

9-to-4                          $300 to $349.99

5-to-2                          $350 to$399.99

5-to-1                          $400 or more

Jobs isn’t “leaving”
There may be moving trucks backing up to the Apple CEO’s office, but they won’t be going very far. The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg reports that Jobs plans to be an “active chairman” and will continue to be intimately involved in product design.

Cook gets a “thumbs up”
New CEO Tim Cook must feel a lot like Mike Bordick, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop who replaced Cal Ripken, Jr., back in 1997. But industry insiders say he’s the right guy for the job. Says Alex Gauna, an analyst at JPM Securities: “For our part, we believe the new CEO, Tim Cook, is a perfectly capable and suitable succession candidate; however, it is not immediately evident to us how Apple replaces the irreplaceable and we are maintaining our neutral stance on the stock until it becomes clearer – either that innovation and operational efficiencies will continue unabated under new management or that they are breaking down.”

Some analysts see Apple stock at $500
Even without Steve Jobs’ magical hand at the helm, Wall Street insiders see Apple’s stock rising – and significantly so. Charlie Wolf at Needham & Co. has set a price target at $540, while Mike Walkley at Cannaccord Genuity pegs the stock’s target price at $515 per share. Both analysts are sticking with Apple, citing the company – sans Jobs – as a “buy” rating.

Cramer still loves Apple
CNBC’s Jim “Mad Money” Cramer still wants to take a big bite out of Apple. He told CNBC last night that the company should remain strong. “The fear is misplaced because of how strong that bench is,” he said. “I think [Apple] is a terrific company.”

Innovation will be the key

Apple watchers say the true test of the company’s long-term profitability will be, well, the long-term. In other words, it’s not the existing products that will move the needle, but future ones. “I’m not concerned about iPhone 5, I’m not concerned about any products releasing [in the] next 12 to 15 months,” notes Sandeep Aggarwal, senior analyst and partner at Digital Route, a data integration company. “I’m more concerned about, two years out, can Apple still ignite the interests which their new products typically get. … Can Apple continue to have the same creativity and innovation which we have seen in the last 10 years?”