Apple 2.0

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The best and worst Apple analysts: Q3 2013 edition

July 24, 2013: 8:26 AM ET

There were some inspired estimates, but nobody hit every nail on the head.

Blue = Pro. Green = Indie. Error % is the average of all errors across categories.

Blue = Pro. Green = Indie. Error % is the average of all errors across categories.

FORTUNE -- It's easy to make fun of Apple (AAPL) analysts -- and fun, too -- but in terms of their ability to accurately forecast the company's quarterly results, they've come a long way.

Two years ago, when Apple announced blow-out results that surprised nearly everybody, Wall Street's analysts missed the company's revenue and earnings by a combined average of 23%. The amateurs did somewhat better, missing by just under 12%.

This quarter, the amateurs missed by an average of 2.4% and the pros by only 1% -- the best combined performance since we began this quarterly exercise nearly five years ago.

Of course, Apple made it a lot easier by giving guidance ranges that accurately reflected their expectations, and then delivering results within those ranges.

Still, the company is capable of all kinds of surprises, and we like to give credit where credit is due.

So shout-outs to:

  • Stifel Nicolaus' Aaron Rakers and Exane BNP Paribas's Alexander Peterc for their photo finish in the top and bottom lines.
  • To Cowen & Co.'s Matthew Hoffman for taking first place in the all-categories rankings.
  • To Scott Craig of Merrill Lynch for missing Apple's revenue number by just 0.05% and to independent Chuck Jones of Sand Hill Insights for nailing Apple's EPS.
  • Finally to Matt Lew of the independent Braeburn Group, the only analyst to accurately predict that Apple would sell more iPhones than expected and fewer iPads.

We'll spare the analysts who ended up at the bottom of the rankings; they know who they are. They include both professionals and amateurs, and they missed in roughly equal numbers by over- and underestimating Apple's performance.

Below the fold: Our annotated master spreadsheet, with the best estimates highlighted in bright green, the second and third best in light green, the worst in red and the second and third worst in pink.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Thanks one last time to Posts at Eventide's Robert Paul Leitao for pulling together the Braeburn Group numbers.

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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

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