Apple could also post a better-than-expected
gross margin , says Tony Ursillo, an analyst with Loomis Sayles, which holds Apple shares. Margins could come in a little higher than 30%, above Apple's guidance of 29.5%. Ursillo expects the top line to mirror the consensus estimate, although the company could add a little extra to the bottom line. "It's a tougher period seasonally," he says. Shares of Apple closed Tuesday off 27 cents to $93.60 as the company's former chief financial officer blamed CEO Steve Jobs for his role in a backdated stock option grant. But investors appear to believe Jobs is safe; the stock has been up about 11% this year. But it's word about the company's highly anticipated second half of the year that will capture investors' attention during the company's earnings report, say company watchers. Any favorable guidance on the iPhone and Leopard is likely to drive the stock, says Dator, but Apple will likely follow form and underplay its estimates. Analysts are expecting Apple to post a profit of 67 cents a share on revenue growth of almost 25% to $5.44 billion in the third quarter. "The wild card around guidance is how Apple views the impact of the Leopard delay on sales of its Macs," says Ursillo. "It will be interesting to see if they say it may not make much of a difference or if they will be more conservative, in which case the stock might sell some."