Three Things to Watch for When Apple Reports Its Earnings

Apple CEO Tim Cook poses with an iPad Mini

Photo by KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images

Today is quarterly earnings day for Apple, and a lot of eyes will be on what’s now been reduced to America’s second largest company. I’ll be watching with interest for three things.

One, though it sounds dumb, is simply how much extra cash did Apple add. There’s going to be a lot of emphasis on growth rates in the coverage, but for a company whose profits were already so high the absolute level matters a lot. The value of Apple’s cash on hand is already very high relative to its market capitalization and every extra dollar impacts that ratio regardless of growth rates.

The second is Mac sales. This isn’t so important to Apple has a company but it’s important to how we understand the overall state of the PC market. Aggregate sales are falling. Is Mac doing about average in that context, in which case the PC’s decline is about the decline of the PC, or is Mac doing above-average in which case the PC’s decline is in large part specifically about Windows 8? This swathe of Apple’s earnings is going to tell us a lot about other companies, in other words.

The third is, of course, market reaction. Market prices are all about expectations. Apple’s PE ratio is already low, meaning there was already an expectation of bad things happening in the future. More interesting than whether the share price goes up or down in response to the news is what happens to the multiple. Do investors get more optimistic or more pessimistic about the future of the company?