Riding a wave of consumer enthusiasm as the newest iPhone 3G outsold the market-leading BlackBerry from Research in Motion (RIM), Apple posted strong fourth-quarter earnings that outpaced Wall Street's expectations.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Riding a wave of consumer enthusiasm as the newest iPhone 3G outsold the market-leading BlackBerry from Research in Motion (RIM), Apple posted strong fourth-quarter earnings that outpaced Wall Street’s expectations.

Analysts had been expecting that Apple would be a bellwether, showing early effects of a slowing consumer economy.

Apple’s net income in its fourth quarter ended Sept. 30 increased 26 percent, to $1.14 billion, or $1.26 a share, from $904 million, or $1.01 cents a share, last year. Revenue increased 27 percent, to $7.9 billion, from $6.22 billion a year ago. The company had guided analysts to expect earnings of $1 a share for the quarter, but industry analysts said that Apple was traditionally conservative in its guidance and expected $1.11 a share.

Gross margin was 34.7 percent, up from 33.6 percent in the year-ago quarter. Margins are being closely watched at Apple, because during its last quarterly earnings call this summer the company’s executives said that the company expected to change its business model substantially in an effort to take away a pricing “umbrella” from its competitors.

“Apple just reported one of the best quarters in its history, with a spectacular performance by the iPhone — we sold more phones than RIM,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive. For its 2008 fiscal year, net income was $4.83 billion, or $5.36 a share, on revenue of $32.48 billion.

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, said, “Looking ahead, visibility is low and forecasting is challenging, and as a result we are going to be prudent in predicting the December quarter.” He advised analysts to expect revenue for the first quarter of $9 billion to $10 billion and net income per diluted share of $1.06 to $1.35.

The news, announced after the stock market closed Tuesday, sent Apple shares up more than 13 percent in extended trading to $103.64, after ending down 7.1 percent at $91.49 during the regular session.

Apple’s 52-week high was $202.96, but the company has been under pressure from Wall Street after several analysts said they believed the company would suffer along with the consumer economy in the wake of the stock-market downturn.

Last week the company revamped its portable computer line, shifting to a new manufacturing system based on a machined-aluminum chassis for its popular 13-inch MacBook computers. That raised the cost of manufacturing, the company acknowledged, but did not completely answer the question of how Apple plans to put pricing pressure on the rest of the industry.

The company said it shipped 2.6 million Mac computers, representing 21 percent growth over the quarter a year ago, when it shipped 2.2 million. The company sold 11 million iPods during the quarter, an 8 percent growth over the quarter a year ago. Apple sold 6.89 million iPhones, compared with 4.5 million units expected by analysts.

The company said it has $25 billion in cash and no debt.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.