Apple's $33 Billion Bruise

All eyes will turn today to iPhone sales, which mean a lot to Apple -- and billions to investors.
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CUPERTINO, Calif. (

TheStreet

) --

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

is suffering the cruel math of the high-fliers club.

Sure, Apple's iPhone problems have put a dark cloud over the stock and have cast a shadow over the company's earnings reports this afternoon (which

TheStreet

will be covering via live blog). But how big a deal is it?

On Wall Street, where woes are expressed in dollars, the iPhone concerns have effectively eliminated $33.3 billion in Apple's market value.

The problem, beyond the

iPhone 4 antenna defect

that Apple is expected to fix by September

, is that iPhone sales may not reach the 9 million unit target central to the bullish scenario.

In other words, there's a potential performance hiccup in store for one of tech's most beloved stocks.

Over the past month, as the iPhone 4's antenna problems have risen to a level of

national curiosity

, underlying that supply constraints have threatened to cap sales volumes in the 8 million range.

>>Apple Hits Through the Years

No big deal right? Well, depends on how you measure big. Apple shares have fallen 12% from all-time peak level last month of $279. That's a $33.3 billion reduction to Apple's tech-leading market cap.

Going into the call after the bell Tuesday, analysts are looking for Apple to report earnings of $3.11 a share on sales of $14.7 billion, according to a Yahoo! Finance tally.

The good news is that Apple might say that it sees an end to the iPhone component shortages. But a lingering concern is that Apple customers could catch wind of a fixed phone coming in September (read December quarter), and hold off on immediate purchases.

Unfortunately, Apple's great growth showcase is quickly becoming a bit too much like a fishbowl.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.