Shoppers gather around a display for the Apple ipad mini inside of a Best Buy store in Rockville, Md., during a Black Friday sale in 2012. / Mandel Ngan. AFP/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple shares closed at another 2013 high Tuesday on hope that the company will strike an important deal with China Mobile and optimism about holiday sales of its gadgets.
China Mobile is the largest wireless network carrier in China, with more than 700 million subscribers. The company does not carry Apple's iPhones yet, but expectations for a deal between the two companies is rising.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich upgraded Apple shares to buy from neutral and lifted his price target on the stock to $650 from $540, partly on optimism about the benefits of a China Mobile tie-up. When NTT DoCoMo in Japan began offering iPhones recently Apple's share of that market got a healthy boost.
"The imminent support of China Mobile along with NTT DoCoMo could aid the seasonally weak summer quarters" in 2014, Milunovich wrote in a note to investors.
A China Mobile deal would more than double Apple's addressable market in China, according to Brian Colello, an equity analyst at Morningstar.
"This is perhaps the largest avenue for Apple to reach out to new customers and achieve iPhone growth among first-time buyers," he added.
Apple shares rose 2.7% to close at $566.32 Tuesday, leaving them up 6% so far this year. The stock has lagged tech rivals such as Google and Amazon.com this year on concern a lack of new products is denting its growth prospects.
However, the company upgraded its iPhone and iPad product lines before the holiday shopping season and these gadgets seem to be selling well.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, analyzed how often the words iPad and iPhone were mentioned on Twitter along with the hashtags #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday.
The iPad was the top-mentioned item for #BlackFriday while iPhone was the most mentioned for #CyberMonday. That suggests those products are among the top gifts for 2013, Munster said.
Apple products were the most-wanted devices on Black Friday, according to data compiled by InfoScout.
Apple's 16GB non-Retina iPad Mini tablet was the most preferred device by the shoppers at Walmart, which sold the tablet with a $100 Walmart gift card, InfoScout reported.
Apple's latest full-size 16GB iPad Air tablet was the most popular Black Friday item at Target, which offered it at a $20 discount along with a $100 Target gift card, InfoScout also said.
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