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Earnings Preview: Analysts Expect Microsoft To Miss Projections; Apple Still Inspires Hope

As Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Apple prepare to unveil their Q4 earnings after the bell this afternoon, analysts are expecting different things from the two. The consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters (NSDQ: TRIN) has Microsoft analysts anticipating for profit of 49 cents per share on revenue of $17.08 billion, AP says. That’s below what Microsoft itself had been calling for. The Redmond company previously told investors it expects to earn 51 to 53 cents per share, on sales of $17.3 billion to $17.8 billion.

Citigroup analyst Brent Thill doesn’t expect Microsoft to announce layoffs, though he does expect the company’s earnings to come up short of its earlier projections. Thill thinks that Microsoft will tell investors that the company plans to cut back on hiring and contract employees. However, McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Sid Parakh does believe Microsoft will announce cuts of 6,000 to 8,000 employees, or 6 percent to 8 percent of its 95,000 workforce, Reuters reported. The bearish view of Microsoft is primarily based on poor sales of Windows as the PC market shrank amid the global recession.

Analysts still bullish on Apple: The questions and concerns — including an SEC review — surrounding Steve Jobs’ announcement that he is taking a six-month leave of absence hasn’t dented analysts’ ardor for Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told CNBC’s Fast Money
that he expects a lot of good news about the past quarter’s results.