4 things you need to know before Apple shares open

Last night Apple reported first-quarter earnings that were near-on unchanged from a year earlier, as stronger competition dented iPhone and iPad sales. Shares tumbled eight per cent on the news.

Investors might not be banking on ground-breaking products, probably expecting more of the same.

So - before markets open in the US - what do the results tell us now, and what do they signal for the coming year?

Supply - not demand - held back sales in the first quarter

Revenue was up, despite supply constrains on the iPhone 5S throughout the quarter. Apple could’ve sold more if it wasn’t for production hold-ups.

Moreover, earnings were better-than-expected, driven by higher average selling prices.

This, says Peter Garnry of Saxo Bank, serves as a testament to Apple’s brand strength and its ability to get customers to pay a premium.

Emerging markets are a silver bullet

Garnry has also pointed out that the rapid growth in Apple’s sales comes from emerging markets.

Latin American sales were up 76 per cent year-over-year, Middle East/Africa 65 per cent and Eastern Europe 115 per cent. China saw sales up 20 per cent and Japan was up 40 per cent.

He thinks that it’s only a matter of time before the growth starts bearing out: “I am still convinced that the Apple machine is not going into reverse but can sustain above average growth rates for a couple of years.”

iPhone 6 needs to be really good

The 5S has been more popular than the 5C because of its new features, like the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The 5C is just repackaged old technology and, as far as consumers are concerned, that hasn’t proved so exciting.

It’s worth remembering that iPad and iTunes basically created new markets.

iPhone 6 needs to be more than impressively novel if Apple is going to stay ahead of competitors.

We've got very little information about the model as yet (it may have a bigger, tougher screen and be powered by an ‘A8’ chip), but it's due out this autumn, with rumours that it could be released as early as June.

How much will stock be in 2014?

Garnry has lowered his prediction that shares could trade at $650 each this year to $600. Weak guidance and market reaction, he says, will put stock under pressure in the short term.

But he flags the growing momentum of Apple’s deal with China Mobile and rising demand from emerging market countries as reasons to be optimistic about Apple’s growth trajectory in 2014 and beyond.

Apple shares are currently at $550.