Updated from 11:21 a.m. EDTApple ( AAPL) reports its fiscal second-quarter earnings after the bell Wednesday, and the chances of a big positive surprise are as slim as the rumored new iPhone. Apple has had the hottest hand in consumer tech for quite a while, but it hasn't exhibited the right kind of magic to offset a fizzling economy. For example, growth in Apple's Mac sales is expected to have stopped for the first time in five years. Analysts estimate about 2.2 million Macs were sold in the quarter that ended last month. That would be down 11% sequentially and 2% below the year-ago period. One reason for the skid is price. The average Apple computer sells for about $1,400, or more than three times the price of a netbook. "Within a sluggish global PC buying environment where Netbooks are gaining momentum, checks suggest sales of premium-priced Macs appear to have moderated," RBC analyst Mike Abramsky wrote in a research note Monday. It's not just Macs that have lost their luster. As TheStreet pointed out last week, the iconic iPhone is entering its third year, a difficult milestone, and typically the last year of life expectancy for hot gadgets. Meanwhile, rivals like Nokia ( NOK), Palm ( PALM) and Research In Motion ( RIMM) have new smartphones arriving in the coming weeks and months. And while Apple's iPod Touch continues to be popular, the iPod line itself lacked a refreshing makeover. The new micro Shuffle and the all-in-one desktop computers may have arrived too late to help the second quarter. "Apple made only modest efforts toward new product introductions late in the March quarter -- perhaps too late to make a significant impact," Majestic Research analyst Rick Klugman wrote in a recent note.
"We see less potential for an upside surprise versus Street expectations this quarter," Klugman wrote. Analysts are looking for a second-quarter adjusted profit, excluding one-time items, of $1.09 a share on $7.94 billion in sales, according to Yahoo! Finance. For the third quarter, the consensus calls for pro forma earnings of $1.11 on $8.26 billion in revenue. Investor expectations are running fairly high going into the earnings report. Apple shares are up 42% so far this year, far outpacing the Nasdaq, which is up 4% for 2009. Shares were up 1.2% to $123.10 in recent trading.