Bloggers vs. Pros on Apple’s Q1 2012: A $5 billion gap

If you ask about sales in the quarter that just ended, you get two very different answers

How did Apple (aapl) do in the quarter that ended Saturday?

That depends whom you ask.

The consensus among nearly four dozen professional analysts, according to Thomson Reuters, is that Apple will report record earnings of $9.83 on record sales of $38.17 billion, up 52.8% and 42.7%, respectively, from the same quarter last year.

No way, say the amateur analysts who follow the stock just as closely -- if not more so -- that the Street.

Over the weekend, we polled our regular panel of independent analysts and got estimates from a dozen of them, including Asymco's Horace Dediu, Bullish Cross' Andy Zaky and Posts At Eventide's Robert Paul Leitao.

The independents, as usual, are even more bullish than Wall Street -- $5 billion more bullish. Their consensus for Q1 2012: Blowout earnings of $11.94 on massive sales of $43.24 billion -- up 85% and 61.7%, respectively, year over year.

If you're wondering on whom to place your chips, the amateurs as a group outperformed the pros for 10 quarters in a row until they got clobbered in Q4 2011. That's when Apple surprised everyone and reported sales 23.5% below the bloggers' consensus and 5.8% below the pros'. (See here for why that happened.)

For the record, the guidance Apple issued in October for the quarter that just ended was for earnings of $9.30 on sales of $37 billion. As high as those numbers are, nobody -- not even Apple -- believes the company won't beat its guidance.

UPDATE: Asymco's Horace Dediu has turned three years of our analysts' data into a fascinating  interactive bubble chart (Flash required.) If you select Motion Charts and hit play you'll see at a glance what an anomaly Q4 2011 was.

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