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shares climbed 4.42% to $437.50 before market open on Wednesday, lifted by the tech giant's better-than-expected

third-quarter results


The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm reported earnings of $7.47 a share on $35.3 billion in revenue late on Tuesday, above Wall Street's estimate of $7.32 a share and $35.01 billion.

Apple's iPhone sales, in particular, were a highlight, with the company selling 31.2 million of the smartphones, up from 26 million in the same period last year.

"The upside surprise was iPhone sales, which totaled 31.2 million units, about four million above the consensus estimate," wrote Charles Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Co., in a note released on Wednesday.

Apple's iPad story, however, was, less impressive. "The downside surprise was iPad sales, which came in at 14.7 million units compared to our estimate of 17.5 million units," noted Wolf. "A portion of the downside resulted from a liquidation of channel inventories."

The company sold 17 million iPhones during the prior year's quarter.

Speaking during the conference call to discuss the results, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer acknowledged the "tough" year-over-year iPad comparison, which he blamed on "significant channel inventory increase" and the availability of the third-generation iPad in the prior year's quarter.

Oppenheimer, however, hinted that Apple has a number of product announcements up its sleeve. "We're on track to have a very busy fall," he said, but did not divulge any further details.

Needham's Wolf expects the next generation iPhone and iPad to appear in the September/October timeframe, but does not predict any massive surprises.

"We do not anticipate products for new categories this year," he wrote. "However, it's no secret that Apple is working on wearable devices and has progressively increased the content available on Apple TV. These initiatives suggest that Apple should once again begin to enter new product categories in 2014,although it is difficult to imagine that they will be the revenue producers that the iPhone and iPad have turned out to be."

Wolf has a "buy" rating and $710 price target on Apple.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

Follow @jamesjrogers

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