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Monday, September 13, 2010, 03:50 pm PT (06:50 pm ET)

Apple on track to sell record 3.8M Macs in Sept. quarter

New domestic sales data shows Apple is on pace to sell as many as 3.8 million Macs in the September quarter, up 23 percent from the same period a year ago.

The NPD Group released new data Monday that showed Apple tracking slightly ahead of Wall Street's expectations of 3.7 million Macs for the September quarter, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. The U.S. sales data implies Mac unit growth of between 21 percent and 24 percent from the same three-month span a year ago.

In addition, NPD data shows the average selling price of Macs has decreased about 2.9 percent from 2009. The figures are based on Mac sales in July and August, the first two months of the September quarter.

The data suggests that Apple is on pace to have yet another record breaking quarter for Mac sales. The previous best came in the June quarter, when the company sold 3.47 million Macs, helping it achieve a 77 percent year-over-year increase in profits.

NPD's U.S. data also suggests iPod sales will be between 10 million and 10.5 million, slightly ahead of Wall Street expectations. These numbers range between a loss of 2 percent to an increase of 3 percent from sales in the year-ago quarter.

We note that the iPod refresh in Sept. makes it difficult to gauge the impact these new models will have on sales late in the quarter (41% of NPD iPod units came in the month of Sept. last year)," Munster wrote. "Additionally, international iPod sales are a larger mix than international Mac sales resulting in a slightly greater margin of error from domestic NPD data."

The analyst said the numbers show that Apple's strong guidance for the September quarter could prove to be conservative yet again. The company guided revenue to 6 percent above consensus, the highest differential relative to Wall Street in the 17 quarters since Piper Jaffray began tracking guidance.

"That said, guidance of $18 (billion) implies sequential growth of just 15% vs. 25% in the year-ago quarter (with very similar product transition dynamics)," Munster wrote. "In other words, Apple's strong guidance may prove to be conservative."