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Did Apple really cut orders for iPhone 5 parts?

Jan 14, 2013

FORTUNE -- This morning, Nikkei and The Wall Street Journal have reports out claiming that Apple (aapl) cut orders from its iPhone parts suppliers in half for the January through March quarter due to weaker-than-expected demand. Presumably as a result of the news, Apple's stock is down nearly 3% so far.

What's the basis for this? This is where things get murky rather quickly. Both companies cite anonymous sources. Nikkei claims Apple (aapl) had originally expected to sell 65 million iPhones during the quarter, while The Journal doesn't offer any figures at all, but does go on to speculate that iPhone 5 sales "may be waning" thanks in part to competition from Samsung and Google (goog).

In a report this week, Wells Fargo's Maynard Um warns not to put too much stock in the news:

(1) order cuts are not new news, and (2) the likelihood that Apple would have shipped 65 million iPhone 5’s for the March quarter would have been miniscule, in our opinion, given the large implied sequential ramp into what is typically a seasonally slower quarter (and with less new carrier launches given the acceleration in the December quarter). 65 million would imply a 41% sequential increase based on our December forecast of 46 million.

For context, Apple sold just over 35 million iPhones during the same time last year, so for the company to so grossly miscalculate and project almost double the number of iPhone sales this quarter seems pretty uncharacteristic of Tim Cook and crew. As Instapaper creator and Marco Arment wrote on his blog today, "That would indeed be big news, but it sounds unlikely given Cook’s track record."

Better than speculating Apple may have made a huge snafu based on anonymous sourcing? Wait until January 23, when the company reports earnings for the last quarter, a period that includes the holiday season.

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