Apple Inc's quarterly results blew past Wall Street's expectations as U.S. consumers snapped up near-record numbers of iPhones and iPads, sending its shares up 8 percent.

The world's most valuable technology corporation returned to form after a rare miss in the previous quarter. It sold 37.04 million iPhones - its flagship product - and 15.43 million iPad tablets, doubling from a year earlier and easily outpacing already heightened expectations for a strong holiday season.

And it smashed estimates on all its results including gross margin, which came in at 44.7 percent during the quarter.

Apple's sales in the United States were particularly strong, with revenue rising 90 percent in the Americas region. Sales in Europe were up 55 percent even though the region was in the grip of a debt crisis that has hurt consumer confidence.

Going into 2012, I expect strength of iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad should carry on into the year. Apple still has some tailwind, including opening up new retail stores and expanding its distribution channels, said Hendi Susanto at Gabelli & Co.

I would say Apple still has many unpenetrated international markets ... Apple is still far from its saturation.

The consumer electronics giant said on Tuesday its revenue leapt 73 percent to $46.33 billion, handily beating the average Wall Street analyst estimate of $38.91 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


Apple reported a net profit of $13.06 billion, or $13.87 a share. Analysts had expected Apple to earn $10.16 per share.

Average projections for sales of Apple products during the fiscal first quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season and one more week than is typical, were for roughly 31 million iPhones, 13.5 million to 14 million iPads and 5 million Mac computers.

On Tuesday, Apple also forecast results for its fiscal second quarter that were ahead of analyst estimates. It expects revenue of about $32.5 billion and diluted earnings per share of about $8.50.

It sets up Apple well for the rest of the year, said Canaccord Genuity's Michael Walkley.

They are still ramping up the new geographies like the iPhone 4 in China, which they just started selling in January and we'll see in March results, he said.

IPhones and Siri still driving strong. An iPhone 5 for the end of the year with a new form factor and with LTE will drive another set of gains in 2012, Walkley said.

The December quarterly report marked Apple's first quarter without its legendary co-founder Steve Jobs, who died October 5.

Shares in Apple leapt 8 percent to about $452 following the earnings report. The stock closed at $420.41 on Nasdaq.

(Reporting By Poornima Gupta; Editing by Gary Hill)