Shares of Apple Inc's climbed about 3 percent on Thursday, fueled by solid quarterly results and optimism about the maker of iPhones and Mac computers despite the weak economy.

Apple shares rose to $124.90 in early trade on Nasdaq, one day after the company posted better than expected profit and revenue for fiscal second quarter, as well as stronger profit margins.

Analysts cheered the results, which showed that Apple shipped 3.79 million iPhones in the March quarter, better than the roughly 3.3 million units analysts were expecting but down from 4.4 million in the December period.

Apple is one of a few companies that can offer high earnings per share preservation in tough times, and here, Apple impressed with its March results, said J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz in a client note.

Apple sold 11.01 million iPods during the quarter, above the 10 million forecast by analysts. Mac computer shipments totaled 2.22 million, down from last year but in line with expectations.

Moskowitz raised his price target for the stock to $135 from $100, joining a chorus of analysts who either upgraded their opinion on the company or boosted their price target.

Their optimism seemed to look beyond Apple's own fiscal third quarter outlook which called for profit and revenue below average Wall Street estimates.

Although pointing to legitimate headwinds (a challenging consumer spending environment and delayed revenue recognition for iPhones), we believe management guided conservatively, said Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross.

BMO capital analyst Keith Bachman, who kept his rating at outperform and lifted his price target, suggested that Apple's profit margin targets are conservative, given an expected jump in iPhone sales if a new model is introduced in coming months.

The new phones and OS (operating system) will extend Apple's competitive advantage, in our view, he said in a client note. Hence, we believe the new iPhone models as well as price cuts will drive unit volumes through year end.

(Reporting by Franklin Paul; Editing by Derek Caney)