Apple Inc. Has a Lot to Prove Tomorrow

Expectations are high at Apple, but not necessarily about its trailing financials.

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
Jul 21, 2014 at 3:30PM
Technology and Telecom

Everything seems to be pointing to a strong quarter out of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) tomorrow. After a sluggish 2013 that saw sales sputter and margins contract, Apple seems as if it's back to being Apple. A key supplier posted blowout quarterly results for the same three months late last week. Wall Street sees Apple posting modest 7% top-line growth, but with earnings per share growing at twice that rate.

Analysts are also starting to either upgrade the stock or boost their price targets to make sure that they're aligned with the bullish camp heading into tomorrow afternoon's report. The latest Wall Street pro to make a move was JMP Securities' Alex Gauna, slapping a $135 price target on Apple in raising his rating from Market Perform to Outperform.

It's important to note that analysts aren't necessarily jacking up their expectations for the quarter itself. Wall Street sees a profit of $1.23 a share, in line with the $1.22 a share that they've been targeting for several weeks and the $1.21 a share that they were holding out for three months ago.

No one's holding out for miraculous growth outside of Apple's iPhone stronghold. Given the weakness in iPad sales in Apple's most recent quarter and an IDC report suggesting that Apple was the only one of the five major PC makers in this country to post a year-over-year decline in shipments in this country during the past three months it will be up to the iPhone to once again save the day.

However, the market's already looking beyond what happened during the past three months. This should be -- barring a horrific setback -- the last quarterly report before the iPhone 6 hits the market. Whether we get two different sized models, the inevitable smart watch, or more product line refreshes or introduction, it will likely be an entirely different Apple in terms of catalysts and drivers when it offers up its fiscal fourth quarter numbers come late October. 

There's no point in trying to guess when Apple will actually update its iPhones or spill the beans on anything else that it may spring on the market ahead of the holiday season. Analysts know this, and that's why they're going to great lengths in recent days to turn publicly bullish or reiterate their optimistic views without necessarily boosting their expectations for the fiscal third quarter that ended in June. It would a shock to see Apple disappoint with its numbers tomorrow, but even if it did that would likely be a dinner bell for more Wall Street pros to get vocal about their support for Apple ahead of what should be some pretty exciting months in terms of product rollouts.

Everybody's loving Apple again even before it has a chance to have its own say on things tomorrow. The expectations are high about the future, and Apple better make sure that it paints in broad yet bullish strokes in talking about what tomorrow will bring come tomorrow itself.