That seemingly foolish call about Apple is looking right after all

In the predictions biz, it’s inevitable that you’re wrong sometimes. Or “early,” “premature,” “half-right,” or the other excuses we use.

But here’s a prediction I’d thought I’d stash in a dark corner of my archive of 2015-era foolishness, which suddenly looks correct after all: Apple

AAPL, -0.10%

  may still hit $1 trillion in stock-market value in 2017, and second-quarter earnings May 2 may make this even clearer.

That, at least, is the analysis of Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha, whose report last week said Apple’s worth $170 to $176 a share. The higher number works out to $935 billion in market valuation, up from above $754 billion at Friday’s close — close to the $1 trillion target. The best part: None of the weaker parts of 2015’s Trillion-Dollar-Apple case have to come true to make it likely.

Back then, I was skeptical of all three members of the Holy Trinity of the Fanboy Case. Apple Pay is, as I predicted, a rounding error in Apple’s greater scheme, while the Apple Car program is still vaporware (despite the company asking for permission to test driverless cars on California roads). And the Apple Watch sold an estimated $2.6 billion worth of watches in the holiday quarter, a pace for about a third of what bullish 2015 estimates supposed.

Instead, Garcha says Apple’s services business, which includes Apple Pay but also the much larger App Store and iTunes businesses, is the driver; he says it can double revenue, to $52 billion, though he’s vague about when. Other analysts, and me, think the stock’s real driver is the iPhone 8, with new features like wireless charging and an all-glass front surface sparking forecasts that the initial production run will top 100 million units.

What I missed back then was the drop in sales to Greater China that would slam Apple shares last year. I said Apple’s value would hit $1 trillion in early 2017; thanks to China, now it looks like the fourth quarter, or early 2018. That’s not the worst mistake: Calculating when markets might stop ignoring flaws, like China’s debt load, that have long been apparent is more art than science.

At least I didn’t predict 2018 Watch sales of $26 billion like…

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