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Earnings Preview: Apple to Report Ahead of iPhone X Launch

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November 2, 2017
People in a circle holding smartphones
istockphoto.com/franckreporter

Apple (AAPL) reports fiscal fourth-quarter earnings after the closing bell today. Since it held its product release event in September, where it announced the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X, the company has been sandwiched between the new smartphones’ release dates. The iPhone 8 was released on September 22 and the iPhone X is slated for release tomorrow.

In a recent interview with Mashable, AAPL’s Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio indicated they had originally planned to launch the iPhone X sometime in 2018, but they worked to get them ready to launch in 2017. That resulted in the launch of multiple phones within a short period of time from each other, with prices starting at $699 for the iPhone 8 and starting at $999 for the iPhone X.

Due to the timing of the iPhone 8 launch, this quarter’s results will only include about a week of those sales. Wall Street consensus projects iPhone unit sales to increase 1% year-over-year to 46 million overall for the fiscal fourth quarter. For next quarter’s results, which will include sales from the new iPhone X, Wall Street consensus is expecting 84 million iPhone sales, up from 78.29 million in the same quarter last year.

Amid multiple reports of supply constraints for the new iPhone X due to production issues with certain features, several analysts have recently slashed their forecasts for iPhone X shipments in the upcoming quarter. As a result of sales expectations for the new iPhone X combined with reports of production issues, many analysts have indicated they’re less focused on this quarter’s results, and more interested in seeing what AAPL’s guidance for the fiscal first quarter is going to be—Wall Street consensus is currently projecting revenue to increase 9% year-over-year to $85.16 billion.

Beyond the iPhones, the company's iPad and its Services business, which is comprised of Apple Music, iCloud, iTunes, among others, have been a focus among analysts in recent quarters. In the fiscal third quarter, AAPL reported revenue in its Services segment increased 22% year-over-year to $7.27 billion. AAPL launched new iPad models earlier in the year, and reported that iPad unit sales increased 15% year-over-year, generating $4.97 billion in revenue.  

Another area analysts have focused on is the company’s cash balance. When AAPL last reported results, CFO Luca Maestri said the company had $261.5 billion in cash and marketable securities, with $246 billion of that held outside the U.S. As a result of that overseas cash balance, CFRA analysts said “we would view AAPL as among the biggest beneficiaries from the possibility of foreign cash repatriation and/or lower tax rate.”

AAPL has used excess cash over the years to fund dividends and share buybacks. At the end of the last quarter, AAPL said it had returned $222.9 billion out of its planned $300 billion capital return program, with $158.8 billion comprised of share repurchases. 

Apple stock ytd performance charted on thinkorswim.

FIGURE 1: APPLE YTD PERFORMANCE.

Apple (AAPL), which is charted above, hit a new all-time high in yesterday’s session and is up 43.68% year-to-date, outpacing the S&P 500 (SPX) and the S&P Technology Select Sector Index (IXT). The chart shows the year-to-date performance for the SPX as the purple line and the IXT as the teal line.  Chart source: thinkorswim® by TD Ameritrade.  Data source: Standard & Poor’s. Not a recommendation. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Apple Earnings and Options Trading Activity

For the fiscal fourth quarter, AAPL is expected to report adjusted earnings of $1.87 per share, up from $1.67 in the prior-year quarter, on revenue of $51.17 billion, a 9.2% year-over-year increase, according to third-party consensus analyst estimates. Over the past four quarters, AAPL has beat earnings estimates in three of them and met estimates in one.

The stock hit a new all-time high of $169.94 during yesterday’s session, but dropped quickly not too long after the market opened. Shares are up 43.68% year-to-date after closing at $166.89 yesterday. Around the upcoming earnings release, options traders have priced in about a 4.3% potential share price move in either direction, according to the Market Maker Move indicator on the thinkorswim® platform.

In short-term trading at the November 3 expiration, calls have seen the most activity at the 160 and 170 strike prices, while puts have been active at the 155 and 160 strikes. After the stock’s recent run, the implied volatility is on the high end and sits at the 98th percentile as of this morning. 

Note: Call options represent the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time. Put options represent the right, but not the obligation to sell the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time.

Looking Ahead

After an uneventful Fed meeting, the next major economic data coming out is this Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the October Employment Situation. Earnings season also continues, with reports from Snap (SNAP), MGM Resorts (MGM), Macy’s (M) and Disney (DIS) next week. If you have time, make sure to check out today’s market update to see what else is happening. 

Good Trading,
JJ
@TDAJJKinahan

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