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Apple iPhone XR and iPhone XS smartphones are displayed during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. 

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple iPhone XR and iPhone XS smartphones are displayed during an event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. 

Another Wall Street firm has cut expectations for Apple amid fears of soft smartphone and overall iPhone demand.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley reduced his 12-month price target to $225 from $250 over the next year. The new target is still 24 percent higher than Wednesday’s closing price.

Canaccord Genuity also lowered its 2019 and 2020 earnings per share estimates. It now expects EPS of $13.25 next year and $14.69 in 2020 versus $13.46 and $15.18 previously. Walkley slashed his iPhone units sales expectations to 213 million in 2018, 208 million in 2019 and 217 million in 2020.

“Our surveys indicated soft smartphone demand with disappointing initial XR sales,” Walkley wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Given the soft start to the latest lineup of iPhones, we are lowering our iPhone estimates and forecast lower year-over-year unit sales in calendar 2019.”

The analyst said muted demand for the XR fell short of his high expectations. He added that survey feedback for “lackluster” initial sales included its inferior quality perception given its aluminum construction versus the XS and XS Max, as well as lack of an HD screen and lower-cost options in the older iPhone X and 8 models.

Despite the target cut, Walkley still has a buy rating on the company’s stock. Shares of Apple rose 0.9 percent in premarket trading Thursday.

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World

Dow falls 103 points, Nasdaq snaps 8-day winning streak on weak economic data

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The data releases come a day after the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its January meeting. The minutes highlighted downside risks to the U.S. economy, including “a rapid waning of fiscal policy stimulus, or a further tightening of financial market conditions.”

However, the Fed also hinted it may end its balance-sheet normalization process faster than expected. This would be positive for equity investors, as many see the reduction of the balance sheet as a form of tighter monetary policy.

Equities closed slightly higher on Wednesday, adding to the recent sharp gains in stocks. The S&P 500 is up more than 10 percent this year as the Fed signaled patience in future rate hikes and amid perceived progress in U.S.-China trade talks.

“Risk markets continue to probe higher with the SPX index … effectively completing the right hand side of the ‘V,'” wrote Michael Shaoul, chairman and CEO of Marketfield Asset Management. “With earnings season winding down, the FOMC minutes now released and some sort of a trade deal (or benign extension past March 1st) priced into the market further progress may be hard to squeeze out of the headline index.”

Officials from China and the U.S. met again in Washington on Thursday. Reports early Thursday morning said Washington and Beijing have begun drawing up memorandums of understanding over trade.

The U.S. and China are trying to resolve their differences over trade ahead of a March 1 deadline. However, speculation has risen that there may be an extension to that target, after President Donald Trump said it was not a “magical date.”

“Tariff news outweighs everything. There was no major news on trade, so the market is trading on what’s out there,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “What’s out there today, there’s not that much excitement to it.”

Nike shares fell 1 percent after star Duke University basketball player Zion Williamson broke his shoe at the start of a highly anticipated game. The break led to Williamson hurting his knee.

—CNBC’s
Ryan Browne
contributed to this report.

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US-China trade war cited as headwind

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Danish shipping group Moller-Maersk reported fourth-quarter earnings in line with expectations on Thursday, but warned a long-running trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies could hamper growth in 2019.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came in at $1.12 billion for the final three months of 2018, above the $1.07 billion forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Shares of the company slipped more than 9 percent after results.

The company said it expects EBITDA as calculated under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for this year of around $5 billion.

“Although we had a challenging start to 2018, looking at our financial performance, we increased earnings despite significantly higher bunker fuel prices and lower than expected container volume growth in the second half of 2018,” Soren Skou, CEO of Moller-Maersk, said in a statement on Thursday.

“However, profitability needs to improve,” he added.

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Facebook’s Zuckerberg meets UK culture secretary to discuss regulation

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Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to participants during the Viva Technologie show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France.

Chesnot | Getty Images

Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to participants during the Viva Technologie show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is meeting with a British official Thursday to discuss internet regulation and fake news.

Zuckerberg will speak with U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright at the firm’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, about a U.K. government plan to regulate tech companies over how they tackle harmful content online.

Another topic high on the agenda will be the spread of disinformation on the web, a government spokesperson said, an issue the social network has faced heightened scrutiny over globally.

“I look forward to meeting Mr. Zuckerberg to discuss what more Facebook can do to help keep people safe on their platforms, as we prepare a new regulatory framework that will reinforce Facebook’s and other tech firms’ responsibility to keep us safe,” Wright said in a statement Thursday.

Britain’s Home Office and the culture department are due to release a white paper where they will lay out their strategy to counter issues like cyberbullying and child abuse content online. Reports have said the report could include a proposed regulator similar to Ofcom, the media watchdog, to monitor social media.

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