Last July, I wrote an article asking what investors really expected from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s earnings. At the time the company was performing incredibly well, but the stock had been moving sluggishly for months. The company missed analyst estimates that quarter, probably not because of poor performance, but because of how bullish the analysts had become after Q1 2012.
Now we’ve entered a new period. The company’s stock, having reached its highest price ever, has sunk to around $500, and stayed there for more than a week. So what do analysts and investors expect the company to announce this quarter that will change their minds about the stock? Is there anything?
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is a technology company on one hand, and a consumer electronics company on the other. Investors don’t really care about the technology side of the firm, as long as it continues to allow the design of products with high margins and high demand. Apple has maintained this balance for years, and continued to grow unexpectedly quickly. This is no longer enough, it seems, for investors.
So what do we really expect from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). According to analyst estimates, we’re looking for earnings of $13.55 per share, and revenues of $54.9 billion. In the same quarter last year, the company put up $13.87 in earnings, on revenues of $46.3 billion. If the company hits those analyst target, which is unlikely given recent stock movements, its share price will surge upward.
So what could move the stock? Just like in July, if the firm was to do something dramatic in its earnings report, it would be more likely than anything else to speed growth in the firm’s stock price. Apple seemingly can’t get away with simply solid financial reports, investors are looking for something special.
They’ve come to feel entitled to something special from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), as the firm has delivered drama time and time again in the last decade. Since the release of the iPad in 2010, however, the firm’s products have entered something of a predictable rut, and the competition is finally coming to terms with the company’s efforts.
If Apple were to announce the shortening of its upgrade cycle in its earnings report, there would likely be movement, if it announces an Apple TV, or a doubling of the dividend there would again be movement, but the release of in line financial results simply isn’t going to send the company back to $700.
One of the major problems with Apple stock is that its too widely covered, and too widely followed. That makes it susceptible to headline pressure, and most of that pressure comes from investors trying to predict demand patterns based on the features of a consumer device. Such a thing is difficult when similar products exist.
It is not likely that Tim Cook will join the conference call this afternoon and reveal that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working on a car, or a smart watch, though they could be working on any of those things. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) announces its products at its product conferences, that’s where the real Apple news happens.
Because the stock is so susceptible to headline pressure, and that pressure comes in the form of product specs, investors need to watch the company’s product releases, rather than its earnings reports. Apple’s P/E hit a high in September with the release of its iPhone 5. After its Q1 earnings report, a blowout by any measure, it’s P/E was closer to 13. The metric currently sits at just over 11.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) moves on its products, not on its earnings. Unless the company decides to forgo tradition and reveal its product line up on Wednesday, the earnings numbers aren’t that important to investors. We don’t really expect anything but small changes in Apple’s earnings report, and with a market cap higher than any other company in the world, Tim cook probably doesn’t either.