Earnings Outlook: How many billions is Apple about to promise its investors?

Though not as sexy as iPhone sales, Apple Inc.’s capital-allocation update could be the biggest bit of news to come out of Apple’s earnings report.

The smartphone maker typically issues updates on the shareholder-return front in conjunction with its March-quarter earnings release, and Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told investors after Apple’s last earnings report that given the recent tax bill, there’s going to be some news when Apple reports fiscal second-quarter results after the bell today.

What makes Apple’s AAPL, +1.81% capital-allocation announcement especially notable this time around is the company’s disclosure last quarter that it plans to become net-cash neutral “over time.

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