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Apple's Tim Cook: 'We're returning to growth'

After reporting three straight quarters of lower year-over-year sales, Apple says it is returning to growth.

"Looking forward, the response to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus has been very positive," Apple CEO Tim Cook said. "It's very hard to gauge demand, as you know, when you're selling everything you're making. So we'll find out more through the quarter, but we're confident enough to give you guys guidance that we're returning to growth this quarter, which obviously feels very good for us."

During its first fiscal quarter, the company said it expects revenue in the range of $76 billion to $78 billion, beating the $74.9 billion expected by analysts polled by StreetAccount. That would compare to $75.9 billion in January of last year.

While Apple has suffered constrained iPhone supply and softness in China, executives said on Tuesday that is set to turn around, in part thanks to its growing influence in software.

iPhone 7

Hardly any sales of the iPhone 7 were be reflected in the company's quarterly earnings report on Tuesday. It was unveiled in early September and since then, supply has been tight, executives said.

But it's clear that upgrade programs from carriers have had a "robust" result and are a "win" for Apple, Cook said on Tuesday. Indeed, while iPhone unit sales fell year-over-year in the fourth quarter, they turned into positive territory on a sequential basis.

Still, executives declined to forecast a precise iPhone figure for...