Aug 1, 2017
The world's richest company — Apple — is getting a free pass from Wall Street
Apple is set to report earnings after the bell on Tuesday, a report that will most likely show that the $774 billion behemoth has even more money in the bank.
To be precise, Apple is expected to report adjusted earnings of $1.57 per share on revenue of $44.89 billion in the June quarter, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. That's a 10.7 percent jump in EPS and a 6 percent jump in revenue from this time last year.
That's an incredible sum — except that most analysts do not seem to be worried about whether Apple beats or misses expectations for this quarter. In fact, analysts have gone so far as to write they just "want to get [this quarter] over with ."
"It's what I'd call a lame-duck quarter," Nehal Chokshi, an analyst at Maxim Group, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday. "It doesn't really matter what they say or do. And this is because everybody knows that the June quarter results, you know — we're at the end of the product cycle. And everybody gives them a pass for whatever results they're going to provide."
Analysts who released research in FactSet all focus on what Apple has planned for September, with the next generation iPhone. The iPhone 8 — marking the 10th anniversary of the original model — is expected to introduce radical new features such as brighter, edge-to-edge screens and augmented reality capabilities.
Plus, there's a slew of people with sixth-generation iPhones — one of Apple's best sellers — that might be due for an upgrade.
Together, that means factors such as guidance on margins in the September quarter could be more valuable than anything Apple has done this spring, according to analyst Andy Hargreaves, senior research analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.
Indeed, the September quarter is so much more important than Tuesday's result that Hargreaves said it might even be a good thing if Apple misses estimates.
"Oddly, stronger-than-expected results may be a contrarian indicator, as it would suggest consumers are not holding off purchases in anticipation of the iPhone 8," Hargreaves said.
CEO Tim Cook has telegraphed that people might be doing just that — holding out on purchasing the iPhone 7 in light of leaks about the iPhone 8.
But even looking at the guidance on future margins and revenue might not be a catalyst for investors, Hargreaves wrote. That's because the upcoming iPhone screens are made from a notoriously tricky material that could delay its launch past the end of the September quarter.
"While not anticipated by us, we believe any 'hiccups' in Jun results, would be glossed over as investors focus on the upcoming iPhone launch," wrote Michael Olson, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray. "We do not expect investors will be overly unnerved by an outlook that is slightly below consensus, given the widespread news flow around potential for next gen iPhone delays."
Abhey Lamba, senior technology analyst at Mizuho Securities, concurred, writing: "[W]e believe investors could look past the softer guide in anticipation of the upcoming product cycle."
So if June quarter results don't move the needle, and September quarter guidance might not either, what does that leave for investors to latch on to?
Aaron Rakers, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus, said data points such as demand in China and the growth of Apple's services business will continue to point to the company's long-term health. Technology investor Paul Meeks of Sloy, Dahl & Holst, told CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange" on Monday that he's worried the company doesn't have another "trick" beyond the iPhone 8.
Some traders are pointing to Apple's stock-move trends after earnings for clues.
Chokshi said he's watching the Apple supply chain, at least for the next three months.
"Everyone's delaying their purchase for the next iPhone," Chokshi said. "And then for the September quarter guidance: At the end of the September quarter .... you have the new iPhone that's released. But it's always supply constrained. So whatever guidance they're providing, that's a complete reflection of the supply they're going to have on hand. So it never tells you anything about what the real demand is. What really will matter is the December guidance three months from now."