Apple Inc. blew past Wall Street's bullish expectations in the first quarter with a 57 percent jump in profit, but a dramatically lower forecast sent shares plunging on fears about slowing consumer spending on electronics. The report, released after the market closed Tuesday, reinforced investors' worries that even a hot company like Apple isn't immune from sluggishness in the United States economy or fears of a recession. The company forecast profit of 94 cents per share, far short of the $1.09 per share that analysts were expecting. Revenue is also expected to be lower, coming in around $6.8 billion, compared with the $6.99 billion forecast by analysts. Apple's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said the forecast still reflected rapid growth at the company.
"Our business performed very well in the December quarter, and we remain very confident in our products and our strategy," Mr. Oppenheimer said in an interview. Shareholders had hoped Apple's results would be a high point in a market otherwise marred by bad news. Apple shares fell $12.66, or more than 8 percent, to $142.98 on the disappointing forecast in after-hours trading Tuesday. Shares of Apple's stock had already fallen $5.72, or more than 3 percent, to close at $155.64 during regular trading. Investors' concerns Tuesday about Apple's future overshadowed a robust holiday season, marked by soaring sales of Macintosh computers and continued rising sales of iPod digital music players. The chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, said the company notched the highest sales and earnings figures in the company's history.
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