2009 Q4

A guide to Apple's guidance

October 15, 2009: 7:31 AM ET

How to make sense of the forward-looking statements in next week's earnings report

If history is any guide, traders will reward or punish Apple's (AAPL) shares in after-hours trading Monday based not on the quarterly earnings it reports, but on what the company says about the quarter to come -- which will almost certainly be disappointing.

You would think by now that Wall Street had figured out that Apple guides conservatively -- which is to say, it low-balls its earnings and revenue numbers for the coming quarter so that it can blow them out of the water three months later.

But in case it hasn't, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster on Thursday issued his quarterly guide to Apple's guidance, in which he tries to predict -- based on past performance -- precisely how much below (or in rare cases, above) the Street's expectations we can expect Apple's predictions to fall.

The charts on which he bases his estimates are pasted below the fold. Bottom line: Munster expects "a typical Apple guide," with the mid-point of its December earnings-per-share guidance around $1.68 (12% below the Street's $1.91 consensus) on revenues of  $10.98 billion (4% below the Street's $11.44 billion).

Below: Munster's spreadsheets for the past 13 quarters of earnings and revenue guidance.

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