Stellar Apple results point to a good year ahead

Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:22pm EST
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By Supantha Mukherjee

(Reuters) - Apple Inc shares surged the most in more than three years, after skyrocketing iPhone and iPad sales helped it smash Wall Street expectations, prompting analysts to raise their price targets on the stock by as much as $100.

Shares of the company, which reported results for its first full quarter without charismatic founder Steve Jobs, were up as much as 8 percent in early trading to $454.45.

At its highest, the share jump added nearly $32 billion to Apple's market value, helping the company overtake oil major Exxon Mobil Corp to become the world's most valuable company with a market capitalization of $430 billion.

During the critical holiday quarter, Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones -- its flagship product -- and 15.43 million iPad tablets, doubling from a year earlier.

"Expectations ran rampant on the iPhone 4S' popularity around the world, and yet December's results reported last night were still "staggering" in comparison," Brigantine Advisors said in a note.

At least 15 brokerages raised their price targets on the company's stock, with two expecting it to touch $650 in the next 12 months.

Citigroup, which raised its price target on the stock by $100 to $600, expects "another stellar product cycle this year with an iPad refresh in March."

The growth momentum should be driven by demand in China and low channel inventories, Citigroup analysts said.   Continued...

<p>Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the iPhone 4S at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>