Apple has been rated as a market performing share by analysts George Elling and Conan Laughlin of Deutsche Banc.

Apple's stock stood at $19.59 at the close of yesterday's trading. Value exceeded $20 during the day.

The rating comes as Deutsche Banc analysts expand their coverage of the IT hardware sector, initiating predictions on four major PC manufacturers, including Apple, Compaq, Dell and Gateway.

The analysts believe the PC market is showing signs of maturity, with unit sales expected to decline seven per cent in 2001, and sales revenues declining 15 per cent. In their joint statement, the analysts say: "Saturation and commoditization has created an increasingly cyclical business with deteriorating economic characteristics."

The analysts expect consolidation and business realignments in the sector as PC producers handle the challenges of preparing for future growth opportunities.

They say: "The complexion of the industry will undoubtedly be changed and companies that are best able to adapt to change will be those that succeed in the future." The analysts warn that companies who fail to change successfully will fade away. They believe the PC will remain a centrepiece of the "technology ecosystem".

But Deutsche Banc analysts are optimistic for the future of the sector, suggesting that investors should be selective about collecting stocks within it, but consider the depressed stock values inherent in today's market.