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What to expect from Apple's earnings

Paul Sakuma / AP

In many ways this tends to be one of Apple's least telling quarters. The new iPhones are still several months out and the old ones have been on the market for a while. Nonetheless, here's our cheat sheet for Apple, which reports earning after the close on Tuesday.

The numbers: Apple tends to exceed estimates. Here's what Wall Street is expecting, according to Zacks Investment Research.

  • Per-share earnings: $2.01, unchanged from last year (Zacks)
  • Revenue: $52.6 billion (Zacks)

What I'm looking for: The main thing I am looking for is "the one sentence." By that, I mean that one line Apple sometimes gives on a new area. "TV is a hobby," was an early example of this. I want to know what Apple has to say, for example, about cars.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear Apple CEO Tim Cook say a teensy bit more about Apple's car effort. I'm not talking a roadmap or anything, but now that its permit to test self-driving cars is public, I think he might try to set some expectations.

What I don't expect: I'd be surprised to hear Apple share any expectations around the next iPhone. It's just too soon. Even if it already expects shipments of the high-end model to be limited, it's likely to wait until next quarter to say so, and usually things are in too much flux at this point anyway.

The noise: Expect the media to make a lot about Apple's cash balance. Yes, $250 billion is a lot but so was the $249 billion the day before they crossed that threshhold. I'm not even all that interested about if they are able to repatriate. I am VERY interested the day they start to use that massive stockpile.