Apple Earnings: 3 Metrics to Watch

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Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is bound to turn heads next week. It's the world's largest publicly traded company, so many investors will be curious to see if the tech giant can keep up its momentum in fiscal 2018, which started on Oct. 1 of last year. Apple will report its results for its first quarter on Thursday.

As it's expected to post a strong quarter of double-digit growth in both revenue and earnings per share, expectations are high. Will Apple's iPhone X-fueled quarter deliver the growth investors are looking for?

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Here's a look at what to expect from Apple's first quarter. But first, here's a review of the raw numbers from the company's most recent quarter.

Fourth-quarter results

In a period that importantly marked Apple's fourth quarter in a row of accelerating revenue, Apple's fourth-quarter results blew away expectations. Not only did Apple crush analyst estimates, but its $52.6 billion of revenue was well above its own guidance range for the quarter.

Highlighting the strength of Apple's business, growth was driven by every product segment, with notable growth in Mac, services, and other products.

For Q1, investors should look for this strong performance across Apple's product segments to continue.

Here are three specific metrics to watch when Apple reports its first-quarter results:

1. Revenue growth

It wasn't long ago when Apple was struggling to grow its top line. Indeed, revenue for the full year of fiscal 2016 was lower than in fiscal 2015. But revenue growth started reversing in the first quarter of fiscal 2017. With total fiscal 2017 revenue rising 6% year over year, investors will look for this return to growth to persist in 2018, especially after Apple's recent launch of three new iPhones -- the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

Management guided for first-quarter revenue to be between $84 billion and $87 billion, representing a 9% year-over-year increase when using the midpoint of this guidance range. But since Apple usually reports revenue towards the high end of its guidance range, investors should expect double-digit revenue growth. And thanks to strength in Apple's gross profit margin and the company's ongoing share repurchase program, earnings-per-share growth should be even more robust.

2. Services revenue growth

Management regularly points to its services business as one of its biggest opportunities for future growth. Indeed, management is aiming for its annual services revenue to reach $48 billion by 2020, up from $24 billion in fiscal 2016 and $30 billion in fiscal 2017.

Apple's services revenue was up 24% year over year in the company's fourth quarter when excluding a one-time favorable revenue adjustment of $640 million. This was an acceleration from the 22% growth the segment saw in Q3.

With Apple Music, Apple Pay, and the App Store all growing rapidly, investors should look for the segment's growth to accelerate further in Q1.

3. Other products revenue growth

Apple's other products segment has been benefiting from strong growth in Apple Watch and AirPods sales. Management said its wearables business (Apple Watch and AirPods) was up 75% year over year during Apple's fiscal fourth quarter.

With no reason to expect either of these catalysts to slow down, investors should look for Apple to sustain growth in other products similar to the 36% year-over-year growth the segment saw in Q4.

Apple reports its first-quarter results after market close on Feb. 1.

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