FORTUNE -- One of the independent Apple (AAPL) analysts we polled in advance of Tuesday's Q2 2013 earning report had to be coaxed into participating in our Earnings Smackdown competition this quarter. It wasn't that he was afraid of going up against Wall Street's professionals, he assured me. "It's just that I don't think there's any sport in it anymore."
What a difference more "realistic" guidance makes.
As CFO Peter Oppenheimer explained the new rules last January, Apple would no longer give analysts "conservative" forecasts. Rather than tell them what the company was reasonably confident it could achieve the following quarter, it would offer a range of guidance that reflected what it believed it was likely to achieve.
The distinction between "belief" and "reasonable confidence" is a subtle one, but judging from the results, most of the 62 analysts (professionals and amateurs) who responded to our polling understood what Oppenheimer was getting at.
Two years ago, the pros missed the company's March quarter revenue and earnings by a combined average of 11%. The amateurs did considerably better, missing by only 2.5%.
This quarter, 26 analysts came within 2.5% and the average error for the entire group of 62 was 3.7%.
There were, however, some outliers who didn't get the memo. Gabelli's Hendi Susanto forecast revenues of $47.7 billion, $4.7 billion higher than the top of Oppenheimer's $41-43 billion guidance range. On the other extreme, Citicorp's Glen Yeung and Rajesh Agarwal of the independent Braeburn Group came up half a billion or more short of Oppenheimer's goal posts. You'll find their names at or near the bottom of this quarter's rankings.
Among those who took Apple's new rules seriously, several deserve special mention:
As for the original impetus for the Earnings Smackdown -- to highlight how much better the amateurs had been doing than the pros at predicting Apple's results -- that's all but disappeared. In Tuesday's results, the two groups were nearly indistinguishable.
More important, Apple seems to be sending much clearer signals to Wall Street. Whether that results in more realistic valuations for the company remains to be seen.
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.
Reports revenues of $43.6 billion on sales of 37.4 million iPhones and 19.5 million iPads. Profits are down, as expected. Boosts dividend 15% and stock buyback five-fold
FORTUNE -- Against the advice of outside analysts, Apple (AAPL) bundled its good news and bad news together and released it all at once Tuesday.
Although profits were down, as expected, it beat its own guidance and Wall Street's expectations -- selling a ton of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 23, 2013 4:57 PM ET
The forecasts of 67 analysts -- 44 Wall Street professionals and 23 independents
FORTUNE -- The results of Fortune's quarterly survey of Apple (AAPL) analysts are in. The pros, as usual, are more cautious than the independents -- but not that much. The gap between the two group's average estimates (summarized above) as as close as I've ever seen them, with the amateurs calling for revenues only 1.3% higher than professionals.
Below: MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 23, 2013 12:36 PM ET
Monday morning quarterbacking before Apple's Tuesday afternoon earnings call.
FORTUNE --There are always a few stragglers who wait until the last minute to take a fresh look at their Apple (AAPL) spreadsheets -- some of which haven't been updated since January.
Below: Excerpts from the analysts' notes we've seen today. More as they come in, newest on top.
BGC's Colin Gillis: Jump in the fire, as any Apple good news could boost up the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 22, 2013 10:56 AM ET
The first test of Apple's new guidance philosophy: Belief vs. reasonable confidence.
FORTUNE -- In January, when Apple (AAPL) reported its earnings for the December quarter -- its first fiscal quarter of 2013 -- the company made explicit a change most investors seem to have missed.
For years Apple had been low-balling Wall Street, offering revenue and earnings forecasts every three months so "conservative" they became a running joke. Every quarter, everybody MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 21, 2013 7:36 AM ET
The focus next Tuesday will be on how efficiently Apple turned revenues into earnings.
FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) shares have been getting slammed as Wall Street frets about its March quarter earnings report, due out next Tuesday.
Whether the stock bounces from the 16-month low it hit Wednesday or sinks even lower may depend less on iPhone or iPad sales than on its guidance for the June quarter (more on that later) MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 18, 2013 8:23 AM ET
The picture of an Apple device being disrupted by Apple itself.
FORTUNE -- It's easy to forget that only six years ago the iPod was Apple's (AAPL) biggest money maker, generating (in Q1 2007) more than 48% of the company's revenue. Now the iPod is almost an afterthought in quarterly reports dominated by the iPhone, iPad and Mac -- second-to-last among Apple's six revenue streams, below iTunes and above Accessories.
The last MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 15, 2013 6:04 AM ET
Global PC sales may be in free fall, but most analysts expect the Mac's to be up a bit
FORTUNE -- For a company like Apple (AAPL) that is supposed to be a growth stock, the flattening bar graph at right might seem like a disappointment -- unless you consider the alternative, represented by the chart at left.
According to IDC's grim report Thursday, PC sales were down worldwide by 14% year MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 13, 2013 12:21 PM ET
The analysts' estimates range from 13 million to 21.7 million. The median is 18 million.
FORTUNE -- Credit where credit is due: The consensus among the professional Apple (AAPL) analysts we polled in January was that the company sold about 22.8 million iPads in the Christmas quarter. The company actually sold 22.86 million -- pretty darn close.
(About the independent analysts, whose estimates averaged 25.5 million and ranged as high as 32 MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 10, 2013 11:29 AM ET
The forecasts range from 32.5 million to 42.5 million. Median estimate: 37 million.
FORTUNE -- iPhone sales were the big surprise this time last year.
Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) had just turned in disappointing activation numbers and the talking heads on CNBC were predicting that Apple (AAPL) would totally miss its revenue and earnings targets -- forgetting, apparently, that most iPhone sales take place overseas.
When Apple reported last April that it MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 7, 2013 5:46 AM ET
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