Supply shortfalls of the new LCD iMac could create problems for Apple, a top industry study has stated.

In a special report, top Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Fortuna revealed that in February, Apple shipped between 5,000-10,000 of its high-end 800MHz SuperDrive model, following on from the 5,000 it shifted in January. Fortuna says the expectation was that Apple would ship 200,000 of this model in the period.

The study cites production problems in Taiwan, warning that the limited availability of stock could well harm Apple's earnings this quarter. The promised February debut of the mid-range CD-RW/DVD-ROM model also appears to have slipped. The entry-level 700MHz CD-RW model is currently scheduled for a March launch.

Fortuna - whose report was revealed by MacMinute - predicts that Apple will earn $1.5 billion in revenue in the current quarter, which ends in March.

On Nasdaq yesterday Apple closed down $1.71 at $21.96.