Apple Earnings Are Set to Shine on iPhone and iPad Sales

Apple iPad third-quarter earnings
Apple iPad third-quarter earnings

Just how high can Apple (AAPL) go? That's the question on investors' minds heading into Monday's earnings report, which is expected to reveal the not-shocking fact that Apple's iPad and iPhone devices continue to sell wildly.

Although much of the U.S. economy remains sluggish, the recession appears to have passed over One Infinite Loop, Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Indeed, 2010 has surely been of the strongest years in Apple's history, and the company's shares have broken the $300 barrier and show no sign of stopping their ascent.

Apple shares jumped 4% on Friday, Oct. 15, in anticipation of another strong earnings report, and they kept going after-hours, finally hitting $316.40.

Will "Supply Constraints" Hurt?

As usual, expectations are high, but Apple has a way of exceeding already optimistic hopes, partially because it's an inveterate low-baller of financial expectations. Last quarter, Apple absolutely obliterated Wall Street expectations.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Andy Hargreaves said he expects another strong quarter, if not as powerful as last, partially because Apple is literally having trouble producing enough products to meet consumer demand. "I don't think it will be a big as what we've seen in the past, at least relative to our numbers, because of supply constraints early in the quarter," Hargreaves told Reuters.

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Analysts will want to hear how strong iPhone sales have been in the face of the onslaught of competing devices that run Google's (GOOG) Android operating system. Wall Street is looking for iPhone shipments in the 11 million to 12 million range. If Verizon Wireless begins offering the iPhone next year, as expected, that could add another 10 million units to 2010 iPhone sales projections.

As far the the iPad is concerned, Apple has had a bit of a honeymoon period because it was the first company to take tablet computers truly mainstream. Analysts are looking for 3.5 million to 4 million Mac computers sold.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect Apple to report earnings of $4.08 a share on revenue of $18.9 billion. StarMine's SmartEstimate, which polls a selection of top-rated analysts, calls for Apple to report EPS of $4.17 on revenue of $19.1 billion. Soon enough, everyone will know whether Apple keeps up its streak of beating Wall Street's already lofty expectations.