Apple Smashes Expectations with $74.6 Billion December Quarter [Update]

$AAPLApple announced earnings for its first fiscal quarter on Tuesday, and the company smashed expectations. Apple reported revenue of US$74.6 billion and earnings of $18 billion—earnings per share (EPS) clocked in at $3.06. Consensus estimates were for $63.48 billion in revenue with earnings per share of $2.60.

It compares rather favorably to the year ago quarter, when Apple posted a then-record $57.6 billion in revenue and $13.1 billion in earnings (EPS of $2.0.7). Gross margins for the quarter were 39.9 percent, up 200 basis points year over year.

Apple said its performance was, "fueled by all-time record revenue from iPhone and Mac sales as well as record performance of the App Store." Apple said it sold 74.5 million iPhones—analysts were expecting 69 million units.

"We'd like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal."

"Our exceptional results produced EPS growth of 48 percent over last year, and $33.7 billion in operating cash flow during the quarter, an all-time record," Apple CFO Luca Maestri added. "We spent over $8 billion on our capital return program, bringing total returns to investors to almost $103 billion, over $57 billion of which occurred in just the last 12 months."

Apple guided for revenue between $52 billion and $55 billion for the March quarter. If Apple hits those numbers it will represent a record March quarter. The company also expects gross margins between 38.5 percent and 39.5 percent, with operating expenses between $5.4 billion and $5.5 billion.

The company will also payout a dividend of $0.47 per share.

Shares of $AAPL closed lower in the run up to Apple's announcement, ending the day at $109.14, down $3.96 (-3.50 percent), on heavy volume of 77.7 million shares trading hands.

Apple's stock rose sharply in after-hours trading, hitting $114.76, a gain of 5.62 (+5.15 percent), as of this this writing.

*In the interest of full disclosure, the author holds a tiny, almost insignificant share in AAPL stock that was not an influence in the creation of this article.