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Apple earnings: Will big numbers rev up its stock?

Apple reports its second quarter results tomorrow, and bigger sales of iPhones and iPads may help reverse AAPL's recent downward stock trajectory.

Apple earnings

Apple reports its second quarter results tomorrow -- and the multi-billion dollar question is whether its report will halt the recent slide in Apple's share price.

As usual, the focus will be on just how many iPhones and iPads the technology giant sold, given that the two products account for the vast majority of Apple's revenues. Just as important is how investors will react to those numbers.

In the past nine days of trading, Apple's stock has dropped more than 13 percent from a high of $644. In trading today, shares rose above the opening price of $570.61 three times, but also dropped as much as $16, or about 3.5 percent along the way.

Until recently, Apple was on a tear, surpassing a $600 billion market cap, and looked to be on its way to knocking off Microsoft's last 1999 market cap record of $619 billion.

In a note to investors last week, Bernstein Research pointed to profit-taking investors, lackluster Mac sales estimates, and the lack of imminent flashy product launches as reasons for the falling share price. Nonetheless, the firm said Apple was its "top pick," giving it a target price of $710.

Apple could assuage fears if it handily tops estimates with higher than expected sales of the iPhone, which was refreshed in October and continues to be Apple's biggest earnings driver. Wall Street is expecting Apple to sell around 30 million iPhones, which would be up more than 10 million from the 18.65 million the company sold during the same quarter last year, but down from the 37 million from Apple's blowout holiday quarter.

It's a similar story for sales of the iPad, the newest version of which was only on sale during the last two weeks the quarter. Analysts expect Apple to announce sales in the 12 million range, which is more than twice the 4.69 million iPads Apple sold the same quarter a year ago, but down from the 15.43 million Apple sold in its previous quarter. Apple's already announced sales of 3 million iPads from the third-generation model's opening weekend, so tomorrow's announcement will fill in an extra few days of those early sales.

Last but not least, there are the aforementioned Mac sales, which are expected in the 4.1 to 4.4 million range, according to sales data gathered by the NPD Group. In a note to investors last week, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster said Apple likely sold about 4.3 million, noting that the company's line of portable and desktop computers has not received an update in a while, but could be due for one soon.

"We believe that MacBook, iMac, and potentially MacBook Air, lines could all be refreshed during the June quarter, which we believe would result in a reacceleration of Mac sales," Munster wrote. "We note Apple blogs have speculated that MacBooks may be updated with a slimmer body style. Also, Intel's most recent generation of processors, Ivy Bridge, are set to be introduced this month." (That's already happened, read up on Ivy Bridge here.)

All told, analysts polled by FactSet expect Apple to report earnings of $9.99 per share, and $36.7 billion in revenue. As usual, that's up from Apple's own estimate of $8.50 per share, on $32.5 billion in revenue, which the company doled out with its first quarter results.

Apple is expected to report its results after the market closes, and will be holding a call with analysts at 2 p.m. Pacific, which CNET cover live.