Amateur hour: Apple bloggers outperform pros in calling Q1 numbers

Most-accurate predictions of financial results come from unaffiliated analysts

Investors frequently rely on the guidance of professional financial analysts affiliated with banks and brokerage houses for their investment advice. Maybe they need to rethink that approach. Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who is one of my favorite Apple bloggers, has sadistically compiled a chart comparing how accurately 41 different Apple analysts called the company's fiscal first-quarter results. (Also see: For Apple investors, a day like no other) Who won? Let's put this way, if we were to compare this contest to a football game, it'd be most like Super Bowl III, when the 18-point underdog New York Jets of the "amateur" American Football League stunned the sporting world by beating the Baltimore Colts of the "professional" National Football League. Except this game wasn't as close as the Jets' 16-7 victory in 1969. Elmer-DeWitt looked at how 41 affiliated and unaffiliated analysts forecast seven key Apple metrics for Q1 -- total revenue, earnings per share and gross margins, plus sales of iPhones, iPads, iPods and Mac computers. He then compared those predictions to the actual results and determined how far off each analyst was on an averaged percentile basis. (Does this guy have a research staff or something? Where can I get one of those?) And the winners are: The unaffiliated analysts -- that is, people who write for financial blogs -- took nine of the top 10 slots. Elmer-DeWitt writes: The bottom 20 spots were all held by professionals working for the banks and brokerage houses. Taken as a whole, the numbers they sent their paying clients were off by a margin (9.04%) more than twice as big as those generated by the guys who do it for free (3.94%). The comments below PED's blog range from congratulating the amateurs to lame defenses of the pros ("it's not their fault, they're so busy"). Eye-opening stuff, overall.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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