One Bad Apple: Tech Earnings to Shrink, and Apple’s to Blame
There's always an excuse for shrinkage. For the information technology sector, that excuse is Apple.
The information technology sector is expected to have the worst second-quarter earnings growth rate in the S&P 500 —a decline of 6.3 percent. But if not for the 21 percent earnings-per-share drop expected from Apple, the earnings growth rate would be negative 3.1 percent, which is only half as bad. This according to financial data company FactSet.
Analysts expect Apple to report a third straight quarter of declining earnings when the company releases its next earnings report on July 22. The average projection for the second quarter is for earnings of $7.36 per share, FactSet reports, compared with the $9.32 in earnings per share Apple reported a year prior.
Combine this anticipated 21 percent drop with Apple's sheer size, and it is easy to see why Apple is expected to represent half of the total drop in earnings for the entire information technology sector.
Of course, the Apple effect has not always been negative. FactSet reports that from the third quarter of 2010 through the third quarter of 2012, Apple was the information technology sector's largest contributor to earnings growth, and accounted for "almost all of the earnings growth for the sector" in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, according to a Friday note.
"Apple was such a positive driver of growth for so long," FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters told CNBC.com, "and now they're one of the detractors of growth."
Butters said that the influence of Apple on the overall earnings growth rate has been unprecedented.
"We've probably seen it for a quarter or two," Butters said, but when it comes to one company taking charge of a sector's overall earnings growth rate, "I can't think of an example where you've seen over so many quarters like you have with Apple, where it was the biggest contributor to growth over such a long period of time."
Of course, if Apple can drive the sector lower, an Apple earnings resurgence could just as easily translate into an information technology comeback.
"Going into 2014, analysts are expecting Apple to get back to earnings growth again," Butters said. "If the analysts have it right, Apple will again become a significant contributor to earnings growth going forward."
Colin Gillis covers Apple for BGC, and he agrees with the majority of analysts who believe that the company's earnings will shrink in the second quarter.
But he thinks that in the third quarter, a new product cycle will elevate Apple back to earnings growth. "The expectation is that you're going to be able to get a new product cycle in the September quarter, which you usually do."
Gillis rates the stock "buy" with a $500 price target. "I like it, but I don't see it going to the moon," he said.
(Read More: Apple to Step Up iPhone Size: Pro)
Alex Gauna of JMP Securities sees the story similarly. "At least in the June quarter, because they won't have a new iPhone, we're modeling that the EPS pressure will continue," Gauna said.
"But when we get around to the September quarter, when they will have the new iPhone out, we're back to modeling the double-digit type of EPS growth we saw last year."
Gauna rates the stock "market perform," explaining that despite "competitive and gross margin uncertainties," he believes Apple has "time to figure things out."
That may be so. But investors in the information technology sector certainly hope that Apple will speed along the process.