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Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Apple seen beating estimates across the board

Apple, which reports earnings for its fiscal first quarter later today, is likely to beat consensus estimates for both earnings and product shipments, according to one Wall Street analyst.

"Based on our checks with 20 Apple specialist stores and our analysis of NPD data, we continue to believe Apple will report slight upside to both Mac and iPod unit estimates and overall consensus earnings-per-share and revenue," PiperJaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

On average, analysts are expecting the Cupertino-based company to report earnings of $0.78 per share on revenue of $6.24 billion, based on sales of 1.75 million Macs and 15.75 million iPod digital music players.

Looking ahead to Apple's fiscal second quarter, Munster noted the company has "made a habit out of guiding conservatively," typically guiding at or slightly below Street consensus for each successive fiscal quarter. Similarly, he said, the company has routinely beat its conservative guidance.

"Specifically, over the last seven quarters, Apple reported revenue above the mid-point of its revenue guidance range in each quarter," the analyst wrote. "On average, the company beats the mid-point of its revenue guidance range by 8 percent."

For the fiscal second quarter ending March, the analyst expects Apple will guide primarily in-line with Street earnings and revenue consensus of $0.60 per share on revenue of $5.22 billion.

"If March quarter guidance is at or slightly below Street estimates, we believe investors will gloss over this information and assume the company is continuing its conservative trend," he wrote.

Munster maintained an Outperform rating on shares of Apple with a price target of $99.

"We continue to believe Apple has multiple growth drivers in [calendar year 2007] and beyond," he wrote. "Near-term drivers include continued Mac market share gains, new operating system release, and AppleTV."

Long-term drivers, he said, include iPhone, increasing iTunes content library, and other "currently unknown Apple innovations."