People try the new Apple iPad Air at the Apple Store on Nov. 1, 2013 in New York City. iPads and iPhones appear to top Christmas wish lists this year.
Apple could be Christmas shopping's big winner, with consumer surveys and an analysis of tweets showing massive interest in iPads and iPhones.
A study by analytics company InfoScout found that Apple's iPad Air 16GB was the top device sold at Wal-Mart and Target on Black Friday, with two other iPads coming in second and third at Target.
Separately, the Black Friday Survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association found that tablets were the most-purchased consumer electronics item, which is expected to be a positive for Apple.
And in a third piece of evidence, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reports that his analysis of Black Friday and Cyber Monday tweets show that the iPad and iPhone "appear to be among the top gifts for 2013."
According to Munster's analysis, an impressive 1 percent of tweets containing the hashtag "#BlackFriday" mentioned the iPad, and 0.31 percent of the tweets containing "#CyberMonday" mentioned the iPhone. That makes the devices the two top-mentioned products for the two respective shopping days.
"Given the positive read on iPad, our December iPad expectations of 24.5 million (7 percent year-over-year growth) appears to be slightly conservative," Munster wrote in a note on Monday. The only potential issue, he said, was supply, which "is generally tight at retail in the U.S."
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White is also optimistic. The Consumer Electronics Association found that electronics was the second-most-shopped-for category over the weekend (behind clothing) and that the tablet is thhe most popular item in that sector. For White, "this increased tablet appetite is a clear positive for Apple with the recently introduced iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display, combined with the discounted first-generation iPad mini."
Perhaps all the interest is being stoked by aggressive promotions. Munster noted that "retailers offered Apple products on Black Friday with significant discounts, which we believe was a strategy to draw consumers into the retailers."
All the positive shopping news appeared to spill over into the options market. At Monday's opening, one trader appeared to make a seriously bullish trade by buying 400 January 2014 875-strike calls for just 3 cents each—a trade that will technically only make money if Apple shares rise by nearly 60 percent by the end of January.
That said, this trader is still likely to turn a profit if Apple rises very quickly in the next couple of weeks.
"I'm not so certain that you necessarily see Apple go above $875, but when somebody buys an option for less than a nickel, usually they think they can sell it for higher at another time," said Brian Stutland of the Stutland Volatility Group. "I can't believe those things will finish in the money, but they indicate that somebody is worried about Apple moving higher relatively soon—and making a decent-sized move at that."
First published December 2 2013, 12:25 PM