Jolly Holiday Seen For Apple

An iPod in every stocking this year? OK, not all that likely but Apple’s product sales are predicted to be better than some analysts’ estimations. At least, that’s the conclusion of a Piper Jaffray research note.

The report, which used annual sales data from research firm NPD, predicts an overall jolly holiday season for Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) portfolio, despite some minor dips in sales growth for the iPod lines.

Senior research analyst Gene Munster wrote that the firm expects sales of between 2.5 million to 2.7 million Macs and between 18.5 million and 19 million iPods during the first two months of the fourth quarter.

The figures represent a 11 percent increase year-to-year for the quarter on Macintosh products, despite fewer shopping days after Thanksgiving this year compared to last year. Also, it estimates that iPod sales will slip by between 14 percent and 16 percent compared to last year’s fourth quarter.

The report indicates a Mac product growth rate of 8 percent to 16 percent in 2008 compared to 2007. Wall Street’s expectation, according to Munster, is a 13 percent annual growth rate.

The report noted that overall iPod growth of 6 percent in 2008 was quite low compared to the 31 percent achieved in 2007. But in a year of declining sales overall, it still came out in positive territory.

But Munster’s initial prediction for iPod sales in 2009 is for a decline of 12 percent drop in iPod sales. He may revise that stat after this year’s seasonal sales are tallied. As of September Apple had sold 174 million iPods.

The news comes as consumer electronic device makers face a tough holiday period due to recession economics. Continuing layoffs and housing market issues are prompting buyers to be more frugal in the top retail sales time of the year.

In a report
last month Munster indicated that the iPod, which is viewed as a product gateway to Apple’s computing portfolio and iPhone businesses, has been steadily declining in sales growth. He’s maintaining a buy rating on Apple’s stock.

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