Wall Street not thinking positively about Apple’s upcoming earnings

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Apple earnings are over a week away, but anticipation of the results are dribbling out. So far, they’re showing some dampened expectations among analysts who monitor Apple’s numbers. The big thing seems to be worry about whether iPhone sales are slacking off.

Apple investors being nervous is becoming more the rule than the exception in the past year. Sometimes it’s justified, like last quarter when profits dipped for the first time in a long time; other times, like the handwringing that preceded Apple’s record January results, it’s not.

Currently, there’s some worry about — what else — iPhone sales. It’s Apple’s most important product, and accounts for half of the company’s quarterly sales. Verizon’s ability to sell iPhone is now a particular concern, according to Bloomberg Businessweek:

Under a multiyear deal signed with Apple in 2010, Verizon Wireless is obligated to buy $23.5 billion worth of iPhones in 2013 alone, according to Craig Moffett, a telecommunications analyst who left Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. earlier this year to start his own research firm. Since the purchase commitment is more than twice what Verizon Wireless sold in 2012, the company may have a shortfall of $12 billion to $14 billion, worth $4 to $5 per share, Moffett said in the report.

The thinking is that Verizon hasn’t been able to sell as many phones as it anticipated three years ago, which means it’s buying less this year. And that could be a sign of less demand for the iPhone. (Verizon reports its earnings next week.)

If iPhone sales aren’t keeping pace with the rate of a year ago, or stay flat, as some other analysts are forecasting, that would be a new development. Even though Apple’s quarterly profits dipped last quarter, its iPhone (and iPad) sales were still ahead of their 2012 paces.

Apple doesn’t forecast its device sales, but it did offer a forecast of revenues between $33.5 billion and $35.5 billion, which would be either even or lower than the $35 billion it reported the same quarter a year ago. In that quarter, iPhone sales were also a bit lower than what Wall Street had anticipated. Current analyst estimates are for revenues of $35.17 billion and earnings of $7.33 per share, down about $2 from the $9.32 Apple reported a year ago.

It’s possible we’ll see something similar this quarter, especially as there have been no major product launches during the quarter besides some new MacBook Airs.

Apple is scheduled to report earnings on Tuesday, July 23.

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