We're averaging the Q4 estimates of the six analysts with the best track records
The chart at right, which compares Apple's (aapl) reported earnings for the past six quarters with estimates made in advance of those reports, shows that some analysts are better at predicting the company's results than others.
Specifically, a group of independent analysts we've been calling -- for lack of a better term -- "the bloggers," have consistently out-performed the analysts who work for the big banks and brokerage firms ("the pros").
But even within the blogger group there are individuals who stand out as particularly prescient.
We've taken the average estimates of the six analysts with the best records over the past year to calculate our "whisper numbers" -- defined by Investopedia as "the unofficial and unpublished earnings per share (EPS) forecasts that circulate among professionals on Wall Street ... generally reserved for the favored (wealthy) clients of a brokerage." [The website WhisperNumber.com uses a different definition.]
We're going to do Wall Street one better and offer not just one whisper number for Apple's last fiscal quarter of 2011, but seven of them. Moreover, we're not going to whisper them to some favored (wealthy) clients, we're going to publish them.
Based on the estimates of our best analysts, we're looking for the company to report:
Revenue: $33 billion
iPhone unit sales: 22.35 million
iPod unit sales: 7.56 million
Mac unit sales: 4.72 million
iPad unit sales: 13.06 million
Gross margin: 41.3%
We'll find out how close our numbers are to the mark on Tuesday at about 4:30 p.m. EST, when the quarterly results hit the business wires. Apple is scheduled to discuss those results in a 5 p.m. conference call with analysts that the company will webcast here.
Below: The full spreadsheet of the most recent estimates from the 58 analysts we polled. As you will see, there are still a few gaps, and some Wall Street analysts haven't updated their numbers since July. [Note: Updated Tuesday to incorporate most recent estimates from Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi. Updated Monday afternoon to incorporate revisions from Citigroup's Richard Gardner, Ticonderoga's Brian White, Baird's William Power and BCG's Colin Gillis.]
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