Apple (AAPL) earnings Q4 2022

Performer Jon Batiste, left, and Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., center, at the Apple Fifth Avenue store in New York, US, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple fiscal reports fourth-quarter earnings after the bell on Thursday.

Here’s what Wall Street is expecting, according to Refinitiv estimates:

  • EPS: $1.27 per share
  • Returned: $88.90 trillion

The company faces several headwinds, but investors hope that the iPhone maker is largely immune thanks to its strong brand, dedicated owners and strong demand for expensive devices.

PC and smartphone demand is falling around the world, potentially affecting Apple’s lucrative iPhone and Mac businesses. Apple also has the challenge of a strong dollar when sales from other countries make up the majority of the firm’s business.

Plus, fears of a potential recession that could hit discretionary spending hard are still rising in the US

Wall Street is expecting Apple’s sales to grow in the September quarter on an annual basis. Analysts are also expecting slight growth in the current quarter ending in December, which is traditionally Apple’s biggest of the year (and has an extra week of sales this year.)

Apple hasn’t provided official guidance since the start of the pandemic, but it offers analysts some data points that allow them to back into the ability to forecast sales. Any guidance that suggests a lighter-than-expected holiday season could hit the stock hard.

Google, Meta and Microsoft have already reported disappointing earnings this week, showing that Big Tech is not immune.

“We do not expect AAPL to provide revenue guidance for F1Q (Dec) due to the ongoing macro uncertainty, but we believe the company will suggest revenue growth will decelerate,” wrote Deutsche Bank’s Stanley Ho in a note last week.

The biggest question for investors may be if Apple’s profitable services business continues growing.

Apple CFO Luca Maestri warned investors in June that the company’s high-margin services business, which has grown consistently during Apple CEO Tim Cook’s tenure, would have a lower growth rate than 12%, its slowest in years.

Apple’s services include revenue from the App Store, subscriptions such as Apple Music, search licensing fees from companies such as Google, hardware warranties and other businesses. In the last week, Apple has raised prices for some of its most popular subscriptions, such as Apple Music, and added new ad units in its App Store, in a sign that the company may be taking actions to increase services revenue.

The company’s services segment faces difficult comparisons to 2021, when people used the company’s subscription offerings more while they were at home. Maestri also cited a strong dollar and macroeconomic factors as a reason for his forecast.

However, investors hope that services start to grow faster again starting in December. “Most investors are aligned that services revenue growth should accelerate” during the December quarter again, wrote Morgan Stanley’s Erik Woodring in a note this week.

If Apple feels pressure from macroeconomic conditions, it’s likely to show up in Apple Watch and AirPods sales, said Woodring in the note.

“We believe Wearables are the most discretionary product in Apple’s portfolio and therefore most prone to the pullback we are seeing in consumer electronics spending,” Woodring wrote.

The quarter will have about a week of iPhone 14 sales, and investors are curious for any hint about whether this year’s cycle is strong. So far, analyst reports have suggested that Apple’s pricey iPhone 14 Pro models are selling better than the lower-cost iPhone 14 models, which suggests that Apple may be convincing customers to spend more on their phones.

Some analysts believe the company could benefit from low investor expectations, given the macro environment and because Apple shares are already down nearly 18% so far this year.

“We don’t believe fundamentals are immune to the macro backdrop, but we see the combination of a resilient iPhone product cycle in relation to revenues rather than volumes, as well as margins, to deliver results that demonstrate resiliency above the low bar of investor expectations at this time,” JPMorgan’s Samik Chatterjee wrote in a note on Monday.

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