More realistic guidance from Apple results in better analyst estimates

Apple 2.0's Philip Elmer-DeWitt put it the best in the subhead for his Apple Earnings Smackdown article this morning when he said "Apple management may have found a way to tame the wild beasts of Wall Street." What he was referring to was the fact that most Wall Street analysts were actually quite close on their estimates of how Apple performed in the second quarter of its fiscal year, thanks to new guidance rules that had been announced by CFO Peter Oppenheimer in January. The Smackdown is a quarterly roll call of analyst estimates and how well various institutional and independent analysts fared in their educated guesses of Apple performance.

On the Q1 2012 earnings call, Oppenheimer stated that the company would no longer give analysts conservative forecasts, or as Elmer-DeWitt put it: "Rather than tell them what the company was reasonably confident it could achieve the following quarter, it would offer a range of guidance that reflected what it believed it was likely to achieve (emphasis is Elmer-DeWitt's)."

Oppenheimer's pronouncement appears to have been embraced by the financial wizards, as 26 of 62 analysts picked the March quarter revenue and earnings within 2.5 percent. That's a vast improvement over the 2011 estimates for the same quarter that were off by a combined average of 11 percent. And while independent analysts used to do a much better job of making accurate estimates than the pros, the difference was essentially non-existant this time around.

Perhaps between better guidance from Apple, closer estimates by analysts and the company's agressive dividend payout and stock repurchase plans, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Oppenheimer may have developed a method to sooth the nerves of Wall Street and hopefully halt the recent slide in the value of the company's share price.