Should Apple Even Bother Giving Earnings Guidance?

Apple giving earnings guidance is a little like betting against a fast-moving stock: It’s senseless.

Even ace analyst Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research, a big Apple bull who has a $450 target on its stock, wrote today: “Apple's EPS and margin guidance (Apple has beaten its own EPS guidance by an average of 27 percent over the last 10 quarters) have historically been so conservative as to not be helpful…”

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I hadn’t even thought about this until Apple reported second-quarter results last night, beating by a landslide with third quarter guidance that was below expectations. It dawned on me,as I wrote last night: This makes so sense.

At a fast-growing company like Apple, sales and earnings are moving target. The big growth numbers should speak for themselves. Rather than meeting or beating, the numbers should tell the story: Either the growth is accelerating—or it’s not. (With Apple, it is!)

Looking for a check-and-balance, I tweeted this morning: “Should Apple or any fast-growing company give guidance?”

Former analyst and Business Insider proprietor Henry Blodgett was first in. “Hell no,” was his response. (Why don’t you tell us what you really think, Henry!) Options scribe Adam Warner chimed in, “It’s a pointless parlor game; they lowball analyst numbers artificially low and then magically the company ‘beats’.”

Added blogger Terry Corcoran: “One day they'll come in on that number and the stock will plummet. Which is sort of your point, guidance is silly.”

There were dissenters, like Michael Dawson, who wrote; “Whether it’s bogus or not—companies should be accountable to someone outside of its four walls.”


Then there was my favorite, from follower Byan McCormick, who wrote, “All earnings beats are the result of lousy forecasts. We celebrate analyst errors, not company results.”

As for Apple, a spokesman reiterates what the company has said in the past: "We provide guidance that we have reasonable confidence in achieving."

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Follow Herb on Twitter: @herbgreenberg


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