In the wake of last weeks financial-analysts meeting at Apple HQ, Prudential Securities has raised its target for Apple's share price to $26 from $21.

Prudential feel the increase is justified by recent and forthcoming product launches, and Mac OS X's March 24 launch. Prudential also expects Apple to return to profitability over the next few months.

Prudential foresees no component shortages and declining inventory levels for the company, Reuters reports.

Overall loss A contrasting decision comes from Bear Stearns, where analyst Andrew Neff cut his June quarter and 2001 earnings estimates for Apple, voicing concerns at the launch of Mac OS X. He expects Apple to file a loss overall for the current financial year.

Apple closed at $20.1875 per share yesterday, down $0.4375.

Meanwhile, UK research firm, Experian warns that a slowdown in profitability in all industries in the UK threatens jobs. In the IT industry, its results show declining profitability, a fall in shareholder's returns and a drop in productivity.

The research group says: "Confidence in the IT sector has been badly hit over the last few months as many dot-coms have hit financial problems. Even a number of major players in the traditional hardware/software sector have issued profit warnings." These players include Apple, Gateway, Dell, and IBM.

"This is the longest, sustained period of declining profitability since the last recession. The slowdown in the US economy will inevitably impact on UK jobs," the report concludes.