Will Apple Add a Warning to Earnings?

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) first earnings announcement for the year — scheduled for January 23 — will beat expectations, according to Pacific Crest’s Andy Hargreaves, but the analyst has a bad feeling about the iPhone maker’s guidance for the current quarter. According to Hargreaves, Apple’s March quarter guidance may be far less than what Wall Street is hoping for, Forbes said.

Apple’s first fiscal quarter, or the three-month period ended in December, is typically its strongest as it includes heavy sales from the holiday shopping season. The latest iPhone 5 was available for buying for the entire quarter, while the refreshes to the iPod and the iPad lineups also came during it. The Mac computer line also received an update, though those sales did not start before nearly the end of the quarter.

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Hargreaves thinks sales figures for the iPhone are likely to have come up at a strong 50.5 million units this time around, along with 23.5 million iPads. That will help the company post revenue of $58.3 million and earnings per share of $14.79, he predicts. Wall Street consensus is for $54.5 billion in revenue and $13.33 per share in earnings.

But Apple’s guidance for the quarter ending in March is likely to feature revenue of $41 billion, according to Hargreaves, while the current consensus is for $47.1 billion. “Although Apple often beats its revenue guidance by enough to cover the gap, we believe the current sell-side estimates leave little room for outperformance and could be negatively revised following management’s FY Q2 guidance,” Hargreaves, who has a price target of $565 for Apple, wrote in a research note.

Apple gained 3.2 percent to close at $549 on Wednesday.

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