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Apple takes hit in trading today after earnings report

Apple stock took a hit Wednesday as shareholders and analysts puzzled over the company’s latest earnings report. The tech giant missed expectations Tuesday on sales and revenue, though it did push a record-breaking 17 million iPads to consumers in the past three months.

But Apple failed to meet analyst expectations for $38 billion in revenue and 30 million in iPhone sales, instead posting a more modest $35 billion in revenue and 26 million in smartphone sales. The stock tumbled after-hours Tuesday and in Wednesday trading when it brought the Nasdaq down with it.

In mid-afternoon trading, Apple stock was at $577.41 per share, down 3.6 percent from its opening price and even further from a previous close of $600.92.

Apple offered several reasons why its earnings report — which still beat its own, traditionally conservative estimates for the quarter — may have been a letdown for analysts. The company said that the weak economy in Europe as well as what Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer called a “pause” in buying as consumers wait for the next iPhone.

Still, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said that he wouldn’t want to put a stop to the rumor mill, saying on an earnings call with analysts that putting resources into shutting down reported leaks wouldn’t be productive.

IDC technology analyst Ramon Llamas told The Washington Post Wednesday that shareholders shouldn’t be spooked by the slower sales figures, saying that Apple has plenty of room to grow — even in the U.S.

With the introduction of pre-paid iPhones, he said, Apple is set to crack open a whole new market.

“That’s a totally different business model,” Llamas said, adding that Apple has also been releasing the iPhone on many, smaller carriers across the country. The iPhone 4S, he added, is six months old and still pulling in good sales for Apple.

He said that it’s likely that iPhone sales will go down again in the next quarter before the expected release of the company’s next model.

“I fully expect a decline," he said. “It will be a stretch for Apple’s people to sell all that inventory that they have and will have until the new version” is released.

As for that next version, Cook was characteristically quiet about any details of future products. Apple has a long history of not confirming any products exist until they’re announced in huge debut events.

Llamas said that analysts will be watching Apple’s decisions on changing the screen size of the next iPhone as well as whether the company decides to include 4G LTE technology in the new device.

Doing so would put Apple more in line with the hardware other competitors offer but LTE technology could hurt the company’s ability to market the phone in other countries that run on a different standard.

“When it comes to Apple, the question is how many different skews do you want to have,” Llamas said.

Related stories:

Apple Mountain Lion: review roundup

Apple shares fall on missed earnings

Apple starts sale of new iPads in China

New ‘Mountain Lion’ system for Macs goes on sale Wednesday, features from mobile devices

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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