FORTUNE -- Although Apple (AAPL) investors are plenty nervous about next week's March quarter earnings report, the stock's drop to 16-month lows this week may have more to do with jitters about the next report -- the one for the quarter that ends in June.
The Street's consensus as of Friday, according to Thomson Financial's survey of 44 analysts, is for Apple to report fiscal Q3 earnings of $9.08 per share on sales of $38.91 billion.
Those numbers are down $1.5% and 1%, respectively, from just last week, thanks in part to a flurry of newly lowered estimates. Between Tuesday and Friday, at least eight Apple analysts warned their clients that Apple's June quarter could be another tough one.
Excerpts from their notes, starting with their new Q3 revenue and EPS numbers:
Rev: $39.44 billion; EPS: $8.88. Bill Shope, Goldman Sachs, April 16. All Eyes on Guidance: While we still think many of Apple's current challenges can be remedied with the upcoming product cycles in the second half of this year, we believe the company's near-term momentum could further weaken before these new products come to market. This is likely to manifest itself with below-consensus earnings guidance. For the June quarter, we are looking for revenues of $39.44 billion and EPS of $8.88 versus consensus of $39.52 billion and $9.22, and guidance could certainly fall short of our recently lowered estimates. While there has been some hope that Apple will announce its new capital allocation plan during its earnings call, we believe it is more likely that Apple will make this announcement on a separate date, with a separate conference call. Nevertheless, our expectation is that this announcement could come shortly after the earnings release.
$37.7B; $8.51. Edward Parker, Lazard Capital, April 17: June should be the trough quarter ahead of multiple new product introductions this summer and into fall. Street numbers still need to move lower, and as such we are $2B below in revenue and $0.70 below in EPS at $37.7B and $8.51. While we believe another reset is widely anticipated, getting beyond the June trough will be a key hurdle for the stock, at which investor attention can tack back towards 2H product momentum. Timing and ramp of new iPhone and iPad models continue to be the biggest variables in the near- term model, but with refreshes likely to occur in the summer time frame we are nearing a resolution of the current period of product uncertainty."
$36.95B; $8.29. Keith Backman, BMO Capital, April 17: We believe the June Q guidance, and eventual results, will be below current sell-side estimates and investor expectations. We continue to believe that Apple will offer a meaningful increase in the amount of the buyback and/or dividend on or about the next earnings call (April 23). However, we do not see the buyback or dividend helping to move the shares higher until investors gain confidence that estimates will stop going lower. In other words, we believe the weak June Q guidance could outweigh the increase in buyback and/or dividend, at least in the near-term. Hence, we expect pressure on the shares based on June guidance.
$37.1B; $8.14. James Cordwell, Atlantic Equities: April 18: We expect Apple to report a solid Q2 but anticipate weak Q3 guidance, and we are lowering our EPS projection for the quarter to $8.14 from $9.10 on lower iPhone and iPad shipments. However, with a number of major product refreshes likely in the next six months, more realistic consensus expectations for H2 CY13 and an unchallenging valuation, we believe stock performance can improve beyond the earnings release... Our June estimates point to a third consecutive quarterly EPS decline (-13% YoY) as Apple faces the combined headwinds of a pre-refresh iPhone slowdown, absence of the usual Spring iPad refresh and tough gross margin comps due to the strong iPhone 4S profitability. However, we are not alone in having low expectations -- Q3 consensus EPS has fallen over 5% since the start of March with the average of revisions over this period being $8.57 vs published consensus of $9.14.
$33.9B; $7.81. Toni Sacconaghi, Bernstein, April 17: Looking forward, we are meaningfully below consensus estimates ($5.5B in revenues, $1.38 in EPS) for FY Q3 – principally due to iPhone – and believe that estimates for the quarter need to come down materially. Given an expected iPhone 5S launch in early July, we now forecast 25M iPhones for the June quarter (down from 27M), though we have taken up our FY Q4 expectations for iPhone... Assuming Apple's FY Q2 results are close to its guidance, we suspect that Apple will guide "realistically" for FY Q3 – with EPS in range of $7.50 to $8.50 or so and revenue in the range of ~$33B-$37B. Historically, Apple's guidance has been 14% and 31% below actual revenue and EPS over the last 10 quarters, but the company last quarter stated that it would attempt to provide guidance on a go forward basis that it stressed was "realistic," which we believe was likely the case with FY Q1 guidance.
$33.9B; $7.00. Ben Reitzes, Barclays, April 19: Our March estimates are unchanged. However, our June quarter gross margin estimate is now 36.0% (was 38.0%) and our September quarter estimate is now 36.0% (was 38.7%). We now estimate F3Q June EPS of $7.00 (was $9.04), with revenue of $33.85B (was $38.9B). For FY13, we estimate EPS of $38.84 (was $43.75) and revenue growth of $168B (was $181B). Our FY14 EPS estimate is now $39.35 vs. 48.92 previously.
$33.5B; $7.16. Andy Hargreaves, Pacific Crest, April 18: Based on our FQ3 estimates for 27.4 million iPhone units and 15.0 million iPad units, we expect Apple to guide FQ3 revenue to a range of $32 billion to $34 billion, which would be substantially below the current Street estimate of $39.3 billion. However, we believe our FQ3 iPhone estimate is toward the upper end of buy-side expectations and our FQ3 iPad estimate is only slightly below the current buy-side expectation. Consequently, we do not believe FQ3 guidance for revenue of $32 to $34 billion would be viewed as a material disappointment as long as management's FQ3 gross-margin guidance remains relatively consistent with FQ2 levels.
$37.7B; $8.42. Bill Choi, Janney Capital. April 18: Our store checks had shown encouraging demand for iPhones, particularly iPhone 4 and with prepaid plans; however, we can't ignore the worsening supply chain datapoints and prior experience with lulls in demand ahead of new iPhone launches. Our new estimates reflect 34.5M iPhones in 2Q'13 and 29M in 3Q'13, and now reflects a slight decrease in channel inventory QoQ. We have also reduced our iPad estimates for June quarter to 18.9M from 23.9M. We believe these estimates are more consistent with current investor expectations.
Over the past 8 quarters, it beat its EPS estimate by 42%, revenue by 18%
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But that MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 24, 2012 7:24 AM ET
A big Q3 is a given. Just look at what the stock has done lately. But the devil is in the details
The Street has fallen back in love with Apple (AAPL). "Get ready for the return of the wow factor," J.P. Morgan's Mark Moskowitz told clients last week just before the stock put the finishing touches on a 28-day, $58.48 (18.5%) run that took it to $373.80 Monday afternoon, an MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 19, 2011 7:48 AM ET
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Apple's (AAPL) shares have been on a tear since late August, soaring nearly $75 (more than 30%) to close Friday at an all-time record $314.74.
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Analysts either don't believe Apple's revenue guidance, or they're deliberately low-balling it
Anybody who follows its earnings reports can tell you that Apple (AAPL) guides conservatively, under-estimating its forward-looking numbers to demolish them at the end of the quarter.
Only once in the past 23 quarters -- in the summer of 2006 -- did it miss its revenue guidance, by 0.7%. In the other 22 the company beat its MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 25, 2010 6:13 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 -- MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 15, 2009 7:31 AM ET
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