Last quarter, the unthinkable happened to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) . The Mac maker -- gasp! -- missed Street expectations for its fourth-quarter report. How dare Cupertino not blow estimates out of the water in continuation of its long string of beats?
Kicking off 2012 with first-quarter results will commence promptly after market close on Jan. 24, so mark your calendars accordingly. Will the darling whiff again? Or will it resume its habit of handily destroying projections?
Much of the miss was attributed to would-be iPhone buyers who delayed their purchases amid the media's sensationalizing of the iPhone 5, which turned out to be the iPhone 4S. That pent-up demand was released with a vengeance upon launch weekend, boding well for Apple's prospects this quarter.
With earnings starting to come in for companies within Apple's supply chain, those figures provide even more clues that Apple is about to post a blowout.
Multi-Fineline Electronix (Nasdaq: MFLX ) recently reported preliminary earnings results that came in better than expected. The company supplies Apple with printed circuit boards for its gadgets, including the iPhone and iPad. Multi-Fineline attributed its strength to "an increase in shipments to our largest key customer."
Virtually all of MFLEX's sales -- 99% of sales last year, to be precise -- come from four customers, including Apple, Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) , and Research In Motion. I think it's fair to guess that the key customer seeing increasing shipments isn't Motorola or RIM, since Motorola recently just guided revenue below estimates and the PlayBook is a zombie.
Fellow Apple supplier Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS ) similarly put up jolly digits, thanks to its relationship with Cupertino. As the supplier for audio codecs in iDevices, it's not a stretch to gather that iOS gadgets had happy holidays.
Carrier partners like Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) and AT&T have been reporting strong iPhone sales. Big Red said it helped move 4.2 million units, taking a hit on margins in the process, while Ma Bell said it was on track to top its smartphone quarterly sales record, led by the iPhone 4S.
Apple kicked off last fiscal year with more than 16.2 million iPhone unit sales, and estimates for this quarter go as high as 36 million, which would represent a 122% jump. That would be an acceleration from the 86% unit sales growth put up last year, but this has also been the fastest global iPhone rollout ever, and demand has shown no sign of slowing down.
With evidence mounting, I think we can expect Apple to make up for last quarter's whiff and then some.
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