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Monday, December 13, 2010, 01:35 pm PT (04:35 pm ET)

NPD data shows Apple on track to sell record 4.3M Macs in Dec. quarter

Apple is on pace to have yet another record breaking quarter for Mac sales, this time crossing the 4 million milestone in a three-month span for the first time ever.

New November domestic sales data from the NPD Group was released Monday, and analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray said it shows Apple on pace to sell between 4.1 million and 4.3 million Macs in the December quarter. Early estimates have found that Apple's U.S. sales are up 20 percent year-over-year for the first two months of the quarter.

Munster has predicted sales of 4.2 million Macs in the quarter, and Wall Street averages are about the same. He noted that international Mac sales are growing faster than domestic, which means Apple will likely see between 22 percent and 28 percent year-over-year growth.

Because the NPD numbers show Apple about on pace to meet expectations, Munster said he views the figures as a "neutral data point."

Munster's forecasts for the quarter released Monday are identical to those he sent out in November, when the NPD Group revealed its estimates for U.S. Mac sales in October. Apple remains on track to exceed its previous financial quarter, when it sold a record 3.89 million Macs.

This quarter marks the first with sales of the new MacBook Air, Apple's thin-and-light notebook. Munster believes Apple will sell about 500,000 MacBook Airs in the quarter, compared with 1.2 million desktop iMacs.

As for iPod sales, the analyst said the NPD domestic data shows sales slightly ahead of his estimates. The analyst has called for iPod sales to dip about 8 percent year over year.

Munster said he expects Apple to sell between 18.5 million and 19.5 million iPods in the December quarter, about on pace with Wall Street's expectations of 19 million. He also noted that international iPod sales are a greater mix overall than with Macs, resulting in a higher margin of error.

In the last quarter, Apple sold 9.05 million iPods, a decline of 11 percent from the same period a year before.