The Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) fiscal second-quarter earnings report was a little disappointing, and as a result, AAPL stock can kiss those all-time highs goodbye for now.
After Tuesday’s bell, Apple reported earnings of $2.10 per share, beating expectations for $2.02 per share. But Q2 revenues of $52.9 billion, while up 4.5% year-over-year, were just shy of expectations for $53 billion. Worse, guidance for the third quarter came up short, with Apple looking for a range of $43.5 billion to $45.5 billion, versus a Wall Street mark of $45.6 billion.
With Apple stock at an all-time high thanks to 25%-plus returns in 2017 alone, expectations were sky-high, and the stock needed a big beat. This drop is predictable if nothing else.
But the numbers in Apple’s Q2 don’t seem quite as important as those in quarters past. The Apple earnings report is more about questions than fundamentals. How Apple management answers those questions on the earnings call will be key.
But for now, it appears the rally in AAPL stock might need to take a break.
Were Apple Earnings Good or Bad?
From a fundamental standpoint, Apple earnings look mixed — at best. Revenue looks disappointing, to be sure, particularly Q3 guidance. And while EPS increased nearly 11% year-over-year, almost all of that came from share buybacks, “other income” and lower taxes. Operating income increased less than 1% against Q2 FY16, which in turn implies that EBIT margins compressed.
Below the headline numbers, the news similarly looks mixed.
iPhone unit shipments disappointed, coming in at 50.8 million against expectations for 51 million-52 million. But the services business was strong, with CEO Tim Cook in the Q2 release pointing out record revenue for that business in the quarter. That business has been a point of emphasis for Apple, and 18% year-over-year growth suggests some success.
Similarly, Apple has tried to refocus on its Mac segment, and 14% growth there shows that the desktop and laptop markets might still have some life yet.
All told, Apple earnings weren’t the huge beat many Apple stock owners likely were looking for. But they were hardly disastrous, either. And, again, the numbers here are less important than the story surrounding AAPL stock after the report.
How investors choose to view the numbers will be more interesting than the numbers themselves.
The Bull Case
There’s an easy bullish interpretation of Apple earnings. Yes, revenue was a bit soft, as were iPhone shipments. But with the next iPhone due at some point in the not-too-distant future, a modest miss shouldn’t be a surprise. Apple fans simply are waiting for the next product to upgrade.
Meanwhile, Services was strong. Mac sales were strong. Even a 12% decline in iPad shipments seems reasonably good in the context of an apparent collapse in tablet sales. (iPad sales alone fell by half between 2013 and 2016.) Apple for years has been unable to grow non-iPhone revenue. Those sales increased 11% in the quarter, however — a good sign going forward for Apple stock.
Add to that an increased dividend and buyback, and the bull case for AAPL stock remains as rock-solid before the report as it did after.
How AAPL Stock Will Respond
That’s a reasonable case, if a touch optimistic. The biggest concern at the moment is that the next iPhone seems likely to be delayed — possibly to 2018. With those rumors flying, unit weakness might not be a case of consumers simply waiting to upgrade.
Samsung’s rebound from the Note 7 disaster could be playing a part. Or the upgrade cycle simply could be extending, another long-time point of contention by Apple stock bears.
How the stock responds to Apple earnings will be an interesting tell for the performance of the stock heading into the new model release — whenever that comes. Delays surely will be a topic of conversation on the earnings call — as will any M&A opportunities facing Apple.
For now, the quarter doesn’t seem good enough to push AAPL stock much higher, or bad enough to reverse the recent gains in Apple. But how investors view the report in the very near-term will be a good indication — for better or worse — as to where shares will move over the next few months
As of this writing, Vince Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.