FORTUNE — Savvy Apple (AAPL) investors know that the company’s share price often gets dragged down in advance of its quarterly earnings reports — only to spring back even higher when Apple delivers its usual earnings surprises. (See Cocking the Apple slingshot.)
But the stock’s collapse over the past two weeks has even veteran traders scratching their heads. It followed the biggest rally in dollar terms in Apple’s recent history — a four-month, $280 per share bull run that took it to an all-time record intraday high of $644 per share on April 10. By Friday it was trading at $572.98, down $71 (11%) in nine days, and was still falling when the closing bell rang.
Will Apple bounce back to hit new highs when its second fiscal quarter results are announced? Or will it settle into the kind of holding pattern that characterized much of 2010? The next few trading days could determine the fate of Apple’s share price — and perhaps the broader market — for months to come.
The estimates we’ve gathered from 52 analysts — professional and amateur — only add to the uncertainty.
We’ve never seen a gap between the two groups as large as it is today — nearly $5.9 billion (16%) on the top line and $2.63 per share (26%) on the bottom. (See chart at right.)
Wall Street is expecting Apple to merely beat its relatively conservative numbers. The independents — a growing collection of day-traders, bloggers and Apple enthusiasts who follow the company more closely than most pros — are calling for a blowout.
The estimates, for the record, are as follows. (The “best analysts” in the chart refer to the six whose numbers have proved most accurate over the past five quarters.)
As of Saturday, the Street’s consensus, as reported by Thomson/First Call, was for earnings of $10.00 on sales of $36.63 billion. Their pool of Wall Street analysts is larger than ours; our estimates are more up-to-date.
We’ll find out who was closest to the mark when Apple reports its earnings after the markets close Tuesday, April 24.
Below the fold: The analysts’ individual estimates, with the pros in blue and the amateurs in green.