Can Apple maintain its shine for investors?

There is renewed speculation that Apple could make a cheaper iPhone for the developing world, but most analysts believe the company will stick to its practice of keeping older iPhones in production and cutting their prices as new models come out. The problem is that the price cuts are relatively minor. A two-year-old iPhone 4 costs more than many new Android phones.

When reporting results for the July to September quarter three months ago, Apple shocked Wall Street by saying it expected earnings of just $11.75 per share for the October to December quarter. The company usually lowballs its estimates, but this was unusually far from the $15.59 per share average analyst estimate at the time. The reason, Apple said, was that it had so many new products coming out - including the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini - and fresh production lines are more expensive to run than mature ones.

Analysts then pulled back sharply on their estimates. Their average forecast is now $13.45 per share, according to FactSet.

In terms of sales, Apple said it expects to report about $52 billion in revenue, and analysts have wavered only slightly above that figure - they now expect sales of $54.9 billion.

While Apple's future prospects are in doubt, the company's supporters have one strong argument in their favor: the stock is cheap compared to current earnings, and even if the iPhone's sales growth slows, Apple will continue to generate plenty of revenue. The stock trades at 11 times the past 12 months of earnings, compared with 15 for Microsoft Corp. and 22 for Google Inc. Those figures don't take into account Apple's enormous cash pile -$121 billion- which boosts its value even further.

Despite its size, Apple's stock is no stranger to corrections. In 2008, in the midst of recession, Apple's stock fell by more than half, to under $100 per share. At the time, the iPhone was a year old and hadn't revealed its full potential.

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