Prepare for Apple's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Earnings Report Today

Wall Street, analysts, and all those investors with Apple inside their 401(k)s are assuming the worst come Tuesday evening, and right when they would love to see signs of hope. It's best you get ready now.

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Apple is expected report its first profit drop in a decade late Tuesday afternoon, and many Wall Street influencers worry that the world's second most valuable company might even miss its guidance, which has business analysts and tech pundits preparing for the worst. Indeed, over the last couple of months things haven't looked great Apple — not to mention the stock that's inside so many 401(k)s. After falling below $400 per share for the first time since December 2011 last week, Apple stock hasn't much recovered, down more than 25 percent for the year and ending Monday trading at $398.76, which wiped out $280 billion of the company's market capitalization since an all-time high of $702.10 last September. Today Apple is expected to drop even lower headed toward a 5 p.m. call with investors, right when investors would love to see signs of hope. Since this afternoon has some heartbreaking potential, it's best you get ready now:

Be Realistic: Take a page from Bloomberg's book: Apple is going to have a rough evening. Fourteen analysts have reduced estimates for Apple in the last four weeks, notes Adam Satariano. Samsung has started to capture some of its cellphone market, and Apple hasn't released anything new since last October — and it doesn't plan to until, rumors say, this summer. Plus, you know: what goes up must come down.

Focus on the positive: Apple is still very, very valuable — it has tons of cash on hand, and the company could just increase dividends to appease investors. In fact, the stock may have been valued too high all along. "Overexuberance on the upside leads to herd behavior and panic during the correction," Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, an professor of behavioral finance at U.C.L.A told The New York Times's Nathaniel Popper and Nick Wingfield. If and when Apple stock tumbles today and into tonight, it might be the equal and opposite reaction of what pushed it up so high in the first place, adds Subrahmanyan. "People just panic and the stress hormone kicks in." In fact, at least one analyst even thinks this is the time to buy.

Blame it on the rumor mill. Apple's rumor economy has turned against the company in the last few months, only spooking investors more. There was that rumor that Apple put a hold on Mac parts because of low supply. And then rumors that CEO Tim Cook was on his way out. The truth of these kinds of negative rumors don't matter; the market sees those headlines and pushes its value down one way or another.

Dream big. If only Apple were valued as something other than a hardware company, then it wouldn't have such a problem impressing investors, The Wall Street Journal's Jessica Lessin notes. "If it continues to be seen as a hardware business, Apple's streak—driven by products like the iPhone and iPad—could run out quickly as smartphones and tablets get commoditized and consumer tastes change," she writes. If it becomes a software-hardware hybrid, however, Apple could trade with a higher price to earnings ratio. Right now the P/E is an uncertain metric, as explained in a separate Journal article. "It has lost its relevance because the future earnings are so uncertain," says Lawrence Creatura, a portfolio manager at Federated Investors. But, if investors started looking at it like a hardware company, Apple could trade at a higher P/E without scaring investors. That's a big if — but there's going to be a lot hoping and praying from Cupertino and beyond today. Don't say we didn't warn you.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.