As usual, investors bid up the shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) ahead of its earnings report, which will be released after the market closes Tuesday. The stock price is up a sizzling 15% during the past five trading days.
Even though Steve Jobs usually did not participate in conference calls, there still will be a void Tuesday. No doubt, CEO Tim Cook will talk about his legacy as well as the go-forward strategy.
Regarding the expectations for the quarter, Wall Street analysts certainly are bullish — though at least one had the courage to buck groupthink on Monday and downgrade Apple from “buy” to “hold.” Still, the consensus is for revenues to hit $29.45 billion — up 44.8% from the same quarter in 2010.
That’s an amazing number, especially when compared to other tech giants like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and relative youngster titan Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). But it’s no anomaly — in its latest quarter, Apple posted a 33% increase in revenues from the year-ago quarter.
As for Apple’s earnings, analysts are forecasting $7.24 per share, but Apple could beat this after strong boosts in iPad and iPhone sales, which have juicy margins. It looks like the death of Jobs — which was followed by a global outpouring of support and media exposure — has further spurred sales for Apple products.
Of course, Apple doesn’t need to rely on the sympathy vote. Apple’s next big thing — the iPhone 4S — hit store shelves Oct. 14 and has tallied 4 million sales in that short time. And the iPhone 4S is getting standout reviews, especially for its voice-activation technology, called Siri. Yet again, it looks like Apple has redefined the way people use mobile technology.
But the iPhone 4S is far from the only story at Apple. The company also has launched its iCloud service, which allows users to store their files online. It is not likely to be much of a money maker, but it should be an effective way to enhance customer loyalty. Might as well store all your iTunes media with Apple instead of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), right?
The new iOS 5 operating system also should help Apple keep up a brisk technological pace. Developers already are feverishly working on it, which should lead to richer apps. In turn, it should be even more difficult for companies like Microsoft and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) to catch up.
As for the earnings conference call, investors certainly will want to get some color on areas like demand from Asia, competition from Google’s Android operating system and the impact of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet on iPad sales.
Then there is the issue of Apple’s growing cash hoard. During the last quarter, it was at $76 billion. So might Apple look to make more acquisitions — or even announce a dividend? Without Steve Jobs, investors certainly will be scrounging for hints that Cook is moving the company in a different direction.
So does it make sense to buy AAPL shares ahead of its earnings report? Well, don’t expect much of a pop. For the most part, all of the aforementioned good news is already baked into the stock. But for those investors that want a solid tech play — with a valuation of only 16 times earnings — it is hard to go wrong with Apple.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog “IPOPlaybook,” a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He is also the author of “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” Follow him on Twitter @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not own a positioning any of the stocks named here.