Apple (AAPL) is set to release its earnings numbers for the first three months of 2014 on Wednesday after the market closes. The stock has been a notable loser over the last couple of years, and investors are wondering when, if ever, the company is going to set itself on the right track once again.

The biggest positive surprise that Apple can deliver in its actual numbers is a better-than- expected number of devices shipped, or a better gross margin. These numbers are probably priced into the company’s stock already, making their appearance an unlikely driver of upward Apple trajectory. Many investors may sell out of the company if it fails to meet expectations this time around.

Apple stock is at the same price now as it was in March of 2012. The company’s shareholders have foregone 37% in returns in the wider market in order to keep their money invested in the Cupertino concern. That was a bad decision in retrospect, and there is no guarantee that the situation will get better going forward, despite what the analysts think.

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