Prepare for an Apple Miss

Analyst sentiment over Apple continues to get more pessimistic, particularly in the short term. Several Street analysts have recently predicted that the Mac maker is in store for a tough quarter, and that the company could potentially miss consensus estimates in the March quarter. Both and BTIG Research have expressed such concerns.

The latest is Oppenheimer analyst Ittai Kidron, whose price target reduction from $600 to $550 is one of the headlines today that's holding back Apple shares, preventing them from enjoying an up day in the broader market.

Should Apple investors be worried?

Since Apple's rumored product pipeline constantly makes national headlines these days, consumers can be expected to delay some iPhone purchases leading up to the new models that are reportedly due out in June or July. That will put pressure on iPhone sales in the March quarter as well as the upcoming June quarter.

As a result, Oppenheimer is also dropping its estimates for those two quarters, but the silver lining is that it's boosting its forecast of September quarter sales. Kidron believes that despite the risk of a near-term miss, most of this pessimism appears already priced in to the stock considering its dirt cheap valuation.

Even if June guidance leaves a little to be desired, it would appear that investors aren't expecting much, as it isn't until the latter half of the year when more product upgrades are expected to reinvigorate sales. Apple continues to keep mum on its cash plans, which has widely been pegged as the next possible positive catalyst.

Upcoming "miss" notwithstanding, Oppenheimer remains largely bullish on the long-term business, and is keeping its outperform rating on the Mac maker. That also echoes BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk's sentiments, who upgraded Apple to "buy" alongside a $540 price target despite his similar concerns.

Even if Apple misses when it releases earnings next month, the big picture remains rock solid.

There is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Citigroup. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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