Apple earnings demolish Wall Street expectations

morgueFile user nmy

Apple has not only become the company that redefines consumer electronics, but that consistently turns Wall Street analyst predictions on their heads. And today Apple totally blew out estimates by announcing earnings of $46.33 billion and profit of $13.06 billion for the quarter that ended December 31, 2011, the first quarter of its fiscal year 2012.

That amount was staggeringly larger than Wall Street expectations of $38.76 billion in revenue and $10.07 billion in profit.

Apple away crushed other predictions by selling 37.04 million iPhones (thanks to the introduction of the iPhone 4S), 15.43 million iPads, and 5.2 million Macs, versus the expected 30.2 million iPhones, 13.2 million iPads, and 5 million Macs. The only product category in which Apple fell short of analyst estimates was in iPod sales, with 15.4 million sold versus the analyst guess of 15.5 million.

The company also generated $17.5 billion in cash flow. Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said that the company expects revenue of $32.5 billion for the current quarter. But given that in October he estimated this past quarter's revenue would be $37 billion, it sounds as though the projection is probably conservative, to put it mildly.

Traders were giddy on the news, sending shares up $40 to around $460 in after-hours trading -- a nearly 10 percent jump. Analysts that were far off reality might be less professionally cheerful. It's not unusual for public companies to manage Wall Street expectations downward to be able to beat them on earnings announcement. With so many examples of Apple doing far better than predictions, you might think that the analysts would become more skeptical. Apple management is apparently very skilled at the game.