Apple, the world's most valuable company, reports fiscal third quarter results Tuesday after the bell in one of the most hotly anticipated releases of earnings season. According to Piper Jaffray Managing Director Gene Munster, three key factors will determine whether the quarter was a success, and whether or not the stock will go higher in the near term.
Munster, who has an "overweight" rating and $162 price target on Apple, said the first thing to look for in Tuesday's report is the all-important iPhone sales figure. "The bogey is 49 million units," Munster told CNBC's "Fast Money." Apple's closing price on Monday was $132.07.
"We believe the takeaway on a 49 million unit number would be that iPhone growth is accelerating," Munster wrote in an earnings preview note. "This acceleration reflects iPhone gaining share at the high-end of the market."
Munster's second factor to watch was Apple's gross margin, which he pegged at 39.5 percent for the quarter. In his preview note, Munster said he expected margins to improve into the iPhone 6S cycle, which he thinks will launch in mid to late September.
Finally, Munster said he expected Apple to provide next-quarter revenue guidance of $48 billion to $51 billion, implying about 48 million iPhone sales for the September quarter.
"You put all three of these together, we think it's going to be a net positive and shares of Apple will move higher," Munster told CNBC.
As for the big wild card for the quarter, Munster said he expected the Apple Watch to disappoint some investors, but that patience will eventually pay off.
"In speaking to investors, we have been surprised at the level of concern around the long-term opportunity for the Watch," Munster wrote in his note. "We continue to believe the adoption of the Watch will take time and remain confident that (2017) will be a breakout year for the Watch."