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Report: Apple cuts iPod, iPhone, and MacBook orders (again)

Shares of Apple Inc. slumped further south on Wednesday amid a weakening macroeconomic outlook and reports of additional production cuts affecting not only the company's handhelds, but also its red-hot notebook business.

Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR Research, told clients in a research note this week that the Cupertino-based company has reduced orders for its handheld devices for the second time in as many months, likely reflecting less-than-expected sell-through in the fourth [calendar] quarter of 2007, or thus far in the first [calendar] quarter of 2008.

"For both iPods and iPhones, we believe Apple was previously targeting a roughly 50 percent quarter-over-quarter decline for first quarter units, whereas, we now think the firm is targeting a 60 percent quarter-over-quarter unit decline for first quarter units," he wrote.

According to Berger, the iPod Touch has seen the largest cuts when compared to his checks last month, suggesting demand for higher cost players has fallen off from the company's prior expectations.

"With Broadcom selling the touchscreen controller into the iPhones and iPod touches, and with Marvell selling WiFi chips into the iPhone, both of these chip firms should see slight negative revenue impacts in their March quarter, though we believe the magnitude of this bad news is relatively small," he explained.

With respect to Apple's computer business, the FBR analyst said his checks indicate the company has cut its first quarter MacBook build forecast by about 50 percent compared to the prior quarter, down from 35 percent upon his last check.

Meanwhile, iMacs appear to be bucking the trend, he said, with orders for the desktop systems expected to increases 35 percent sequentially compared to previous checks, which suggested demand for the all-in-one systems would remain relatively flat.

It should be noted that Apple on Tuesday introduced new versions of both the iPod touch and the iPhone, offering double the storage of the previous high-end models for a $100 premium. It's unclear whether any said production cutbacks may have been a precursor to these new models. Similarly, it's unclear whether reductions in MacBook build orders will be offset by demand for company's new MacBook Air.

Nevertheless, shares of the electronics maker closed down $7.36 or 5.69 percent to $122.00 on the Nasdaq stock market.