Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) bulls better brace for a quarterly miss tomorrow afternoon.

Apple bears better brace for a bounce on Wednesday.

No one will be surprised by the consumer tech giant falling short on the bottom line tomorrow.

It's true that most of the companies that have already checked in this earnings season are holding up well on the profitability front. According to Barron's, nearly 67% of the companies that have reported this month beat Wall Street's lowball income targets. However, Apple has proven to be the exception to the rule this rally, falling to a 52-week low as S&P 500 and Dow raced to all-time highs earlier this month.

It's not just the share-price momentum that's bucking the trend. Apple has missed more often than not under Tim Cook's tenure, including falling short in two of the past three quarters.

Analysts also continue to get spooked by troubling retail channel checks and gloomy snapshots provided by Apple suppliers.

Even when the news is good on the surface -- for example, when Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) quarterly report last week showed that more than 55% of the smartphones it sold during the first three months of the year were iPhones -- it's still ugly for Apple's bottom line once you dig deeper. Just half of those 4 million smartphones were the high-margin iPhone 5 handsets. Too many Verizon Wireless customers went for the cheaper iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S smartphones that Apple sells at lower price points on leaner markups.

However, the biggest reason to brace for miss is probably where pro projections are heading. Let's go over the past three months of Wall Street profit targets.

Date 

EPS Estimate

Today

$10.07

7 Days Ago

$10.12

30 Days Ago

$10.18

60 Days Ago

$10.24

90 Days Ago

$11.84

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Analysts continue to scale back their forecasts, and that's important. The freshest estimates consist of lower revisions, so one assumes that the higher estimates are probably the stale ones.

A lot of tech companies had analysts hosing down their outlooks only to beat the watered-down expectations earlier this earnings season, but the smart money has to be on an Apple miss here.

The important thing for investors to remember is that a miss won't necessarily send the stock lower.

History doesn't always repeat itself
Bulls will gladly point to last year's fiscal second quarter. Analysts were betting on net income clocking in at $10.04 a share, suspiciously close to where the consensus estimate is at $10.07 a share a year later. Apple cranked out a profit of $12.30 a share. Wall Street was blown away, and the stock rallied 9% the next day.

However, there were several times before that when Apple did beat expectations but the stock still sold off. A big reason for the divergence is that the stock had rallied heading into the quarterly report. Success was discounted, and here's where Apple selling at its lowest levels since 2011 could pay off for those that are long Apple shares.

An Apple miss may still be interpreted as a positive by the market. If the guidance isn't dreary or if Apple hints at upcoming product rollouts or beefs up its initiatives to return money to its stakeholders, a bottom-line miss won't be the end of the world.

It may be actually be the start of a rally that is long overdue for a company whose share price has crumbled at a headier pace than its contracting fundamentals.

Yes, Apple's stock can bounce higher after a bad report -- just as it dropped after strong reports when the sentiment was overbearingly bullish.

 

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.