U.S. Markets closed

Earnings Preview: Apple reports 4Q results Thurs.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Apple Inc. is scheduled to report fiscal fourth-quarter results on Thursday, and analysts will be looking for data that could propel the stock back up to the all-time highs hit when the iPhone 5 launched a month ago.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Apple released its latest iPhone model, the 5, one week before the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30, and the phone will be in focus when the company reports its results. In particular, analysts will be trying to figure out how many iPhone 5s the company and its subcontractors can produce. There have been reports of Apple slowing down production to fix problems with tools scratching the phone.

The iPhone 5 is the thinnest iPhone yet, and Apple has gone to great lengths in its design, specifying very tight tolerances that complicate manufacturing.

Apple usually reports the overall number of iPhones it sells, but may not specify how many were iPhone 5s. Stuart Jeffrey of Nomura Securities expects that Apple shipped 12 million to 13 million iPhone 5s in the past quarter. Overall, analysts expect that Apple shipped 25 million to 26 million iPhones of all models in the quarter.

The big test for the phone comes in the current quarter, which coincides with the holiday shopping season.

On Tuesday, Apple introduced the iPad Mini, a smaller version of its hugely popular tablet computer. That was expected, but the company also surprised observers with an updated its full-sized iPad. And it unveiled new Mac computers, including a 13-inch version of a MacBook Pro with sharper "Retina" display and an iMac with a new type of storage drive.

The new Mini will sell for between $329 and $659, while the fourth generation iPad will retail for between $499 and $829.

On Tuesday, Apple said it has sold more than 100 million iPads since their debut in April 2010.

WHY IT MATTERS: Even with the recent pull-back in the stock, Apple is the world's most valuable public company, with a market capitalization of about $575 billion. During the quarter, it beat Microsoft's old market capitalization record for a U.S. company of $623 billion, set in 1999. The iPhone, released in 2007, essentially created the mass smartphone market. The iPad, introduced in 2010, did the same for the tablet market.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts, on average, expect earnings of $8.91 per share on revenue of $36.27 billion, according to FactSet.

Apple has said it expects earnings of $7.65 per share and revenue of $34 billion, but it has a tradition of lowballing forecasts.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: In the same period a year ago, Apple earned $7.05 per share on $28.3 billion in revenue.