Apple 2.0

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The best and worst Apple analysts: Nine-quarter edition

February 17, 2013: 11:21 AM ET

Wall Street makes a comeback

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 10.01.46 AMFORTUNE -- As long-time readers of this blog know, we've been running for more than four years a friendly competition we call the Apple Earnings Smackdown.

Here's how it works: Each quarter, in advance of Apple's (AAPL) earnings report, we gather estimates from every analyst we can reach -- both Wall Street professionals and a collection of (mostly amateur) independents.

What made the exercise particularly interesting -- at least in the early years -- was that the more bullish amateurs tended to beat the conservative pros, often by a embarrassingly wide margin.

That's changed in the past year or so. Although Apple has yet to miss its own guidance, it has on more than a few occasions come in short of the amateurs' over-heated estimates. It has even missed a couple of the Street's consensus numbers -- misses that have cost its share price dearly.

So which analysts are best at predicting Apple's results? That depends on how you measure it.

For the past nine quarters we've been posting best-and-worst lists that ranked analysts according to the accuracy of their top and bottom line estimates (i.e. revenue and earnings).

The list above shows the performance of the 40 Apple analysts who have participated in at least five of the past nine quarters. What it shows is that team Wall Street (in blue) has staged a comeback, taking eight of the top ten spots -- spots that used to all belong to the amateurs (green).

But given that the pros also occupied nine of the ten worst spots, there is room for improvement.

Below the fold: The full nine-quarter spreadsheet from which the top list was drawn. This ranking includes analysts with less than five quarters under their belt and highlights the best performance in each quarter. (Note that some of the winners in past quarters have since dropped out of the race.)

Pros in blue, amateurs in green, best in each quarter highlighted in yellow.

Pros in blue, amateurs in green, best in each quarter highlighted in yellow. Click to enlarge.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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