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JPMorgan: MacBook sales up 0.2%; other PCs down 9%

Without budging from his “neutral” rating on Apple, JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz issued a cautiously optimistic report on the company Thursday based on stronger-than-expected MacBook sales in the quarter that ended in March.

Moskowitz is looking for Apple (AAPL) to report that it shipped 2.11 million Macs in the company’s second quarter (up from his earlier estimate of 1.97 million).

Computer sales usually fall after the Christmas quarter; instead, he expects Mac sales to rise a hair — 0.2 percent — quarter-to-quarter, which is why he is raising his estimates. Apple’s increased sales come against a backdrop of unit sales falling 9 percent sequentially in the broader PC market, according to Moskowitz.

But the analyst sees “soft patches” in the rest of Apple’s businesses. In particular, he has trimmed his quarterly iPhone and iPod sales estimates, respectively, to 1.5 million and 9.68 million (down from 1.62 million and 10.1 million). “Seasonality is having an impact,” he writes. “Also, there could be some slowing in the iPhone ahead of the 3G launch.”

The bigger story, he says, is the timing of the 3G iPhone launch: “As long as there is nothing to suggest that a summer launch of the 3G phone is not a possibility, we would expect investors to look past any near-term disappointment in iPhones.”

Bottom line: He is raising his second-quarter estimates. Revenue: $6.76 billion. Earnings per share: $1.09. The Street is looking for $6.95 billion and $1.06, respectively.

Apple will report its quarterly earnings on April 23.