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A new kind of whisper number

A retired Navy analyst threads the needle through widely disparate earnings estimates

Source: Stefan Sidahmed

Stefan Sidahmed, a former submarine lieutenant commander who has been dabbling in stocks and options since he retired from the Navy, noticed that the Wall Street analysts who track Apple (AAPL) always seem to underestimate the company’s quarterly earnings while the bloggers and independent investors — whose estimates are usually closer to the mark — tend to overestimate.

To get a better fix on the EPS number Apple is likely to report when the markets close today, he turned the results from Fortune’s last four quarterly analyst polls into histograms, in which the estimates are gathered into “buckets” and laid out in a horizontal grid.

From this bottom-up analysis he discovered an interesting pattern. With the exception of Q2 2010, which blew everybody’s predictions out of the water, the actual EPS tends to fall three-quarters of the way between the estimates of the pros and those of the amateurs.

Declaring Q2 outlier, he has produced the consolidated histogram for Q1 2011 (shown above) applying the pattern from of Q1, Q3 and Q4 of fiscal 2010 to the results of our Q1 2011 survey.

Bottom line, published Tuesday morning at Seeking Alpha: A Q1 EPS, based on the collective intelligence of several dozen analysts, of $6.05.

Below the fold: Sidahmed’s full complement of histograms.

Source: Stefan Sidahmed

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]