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Apple's Big iPad Turnaround and Upbeat Outlook Could Push the Stock Even Higher

For a quarter for which sales expectations were depressed, Apple Inc. (AAPL) soundly beat estimates with the help of an impressive turnaround for a long-pressured business. And for a quarter for which fears have been running high that iPhone 8 production delays would crimp sales, the company issued an outlook that went a long way towards calming such worries.

With shares having barely budged since the company's last earnings report and (in spite of big early-2017 gains) still trading at moderate multiples going into earnings, that was a recipe for a sharp move higher. One that possibly isn't finished.

Apple reported June quarter (fiscal third quarter) of $45.41 billion (up 7% annually, or 9% in constant currency) and GAAP EPS of $1.67 (up 18%), beating consensus analyst estimates of $44.89 billion and $1.57. It also guided for September quarter revenue of $49 billion to $52 billion, up from $46.9 billion a year ago and largely above a $49.2 billion consensus.

Shares rose 6.3% after hours to $159.50, and made fresh highs. They're now up 37% on the year. iPhone/iPad suppliers also got a boost: Cirrus Logic Inc. (CRUS) rose 4.2% to $65.70, Skyworks Solutions Inc. (SWKS) rose 3.1% to $107.50, Qorvo Inc. (QRVO) rose 2.7% to $69.90, Jabil Inc. (JBL) rose 1.2% to $30.78 and Broadcom Ltd. (AVGO) rose 2.8% to $255.40.

iPad sales were easily the biggest surprise in the report: After having dropped 12% annually in the March quarter, iPad revenue grew 2% to $4.97 billion, trouncing a $3.95 billion consensus. Unit sales rose 15% to 11.4 million, reversing the March quarter's 13% drop and ending a very long string of annual declines.

As the gap between unit and revenue growth drives home, the iPad turnaround wasn't driven by the high-end iPad Pro line, which Apple refreshed at its early-June WWDC conference and which it has been heavily promoting as a notebook substitute. Rather, it was driven by the mid-range tablet -- simply called the iPad -- that the company launched in March. Though its specs are marginally inferior to those of the iPad Air 2 it replaced in Apple's lineup, the iPad's $329 starting price also makes it $70 cheaper, and it looks like that provided a big sales boost.

Education market buyers, many of whom have embraced Alphabet Inc./Google's (