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Apple's Mac sales held up in May while iPod shipments fell

Apple last month saw Mac sales that were fairly inline with those achieved last year while sales of iPods were hit with double-digit declines, according to new retail data released Monday.

Macs in line

In a report on a the findings by market research firm NPD, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster noted that sales of Macs were down just 3% when compared to those from May of 2008, a positive sign given a troubled worldwide economy.

Munster had been expecting Mac sales to decline anywhere from 2% - 5% during the month. Having now digested sales data for the first two months of the current quarter, he expects the company to report sales of anywhere from 2.2 million - 2.4 million systems for the three-month period ending June.

"This data, along  with our assumptions for the last month of the quarter, implies year-over-year Mac unit growth of -12% to -4%, essentially in-line with the Street at  -8% year-over-year growth," he explained. "However, we expect the shipment of lower priced Macs on June 8th to drive upside to the Mac number in the final month of the quarter."

iPods behind the curve

The average selling price of Macs saw no change during May, according to NPD, but the same could not be said for iPods, whose average price fell 7.5%. iPod unit sales were also down a considerable 18 percent as pent-up demand for new iPod shuffles introduced in March began to subside and consumers likely began delaying purchases of some of the pricer models in anticipation of new models in September.

Munster, who had been modeling iPod sales to fall off by only 7 percent, nevertheless put a positive spin on the news, saying he expects "a reacceleration" of sales during the current month of June due to Apple's back-to-school promo which offers a rebate with a value sufficient for canceling out the price of an 8GB iPod touch to students who also purchase a qualifying Mac at the same time.

For the June quarter ending this month, the Piper Jaffray analyst believes iPod sales will amount to 9.5 million to 10.5 million, which implies year-over-year iPod unit growth of -14% to -5%, which compares to Street consensus estimates of about -9% growth year-over-year.

Munster maintains a Buy rating and $180 price target on shares of Apple.