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Apple iPhone 5 China Launch Strong, Company Insists

Seeking to counter impressions that its iPhone 5 got off to a slow start in China, Apple (AAPL) announced Monday that it had sold more than 2 million of its new handsets there in the first three days of its availability.

"Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "China is a very important market for us, and customers there cannot wait to get their hands on Apple products.

It was the first time Apple has announced opening-weekend sales figures for a new iPhone in China. Apple's sixth-generation iPhone went on sale in China on Friday. The iPhone 5 will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of December.

Apple shares declined nearly 4% to a 10-month low on Friday in part based on worries about weaker-than-expected initial sales of the iPhone 5 in China. Several analysts noted smaller crowds for the new phone compared with other Apple launches there, as IBD reported.

"We view this as a very strong launch, particularly in light of a relatively limited 3G subscriber base in China," ISI analyst Brian Marshall said in a research note Monday. By comparison, it took an estimated 10 days for Apple to sell 2 million iPhone 5 units in the U.S. through three carriers, AT&T (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Verizon Wireless, which is co-owned by Verizon Communications (VZ) and Vodafone (VOD).

Apple has two wireless carriers selling the iPhone in China — China Telecom (CHA) and China Unicom (CHU) . A potential deal with China's largest carrier, China Mobile (CHL), "could serve as a significant (second-half 2013) catalyst" for Apple, Marshall said.

Still In Downtrend Apple shares rose nearly 2% to 518.86 on Monday after falling to a fresh 10-month low of 501.23 intraday. It's not clear whether the stock rallied on optimism about Apple or if it was just rising as equities overall rallied strongly. Apple peaked at 705.07 on Sept. 21.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley lowered his fiscal 2013 and 2014 estimates for Apple based on softer sales expectations for the iPhone and iPad in international markets, primarily Europe.

Many Apple suppliers rebounded Monday following Friday's reports of lower orders. Cirrus Logic (CRUS) rose nearly 7% Monday, essentially erasing the same loss Friday. Qualcomm (QCOM) climbed almost 4% following Friday's 5% slide. Broadcom (BRCM) edged up 1% after Friday's 4% retreat.