AT&T earnings fall, but iPhone cushions blow

NEW YORK - Cost-cutting and the lure of the iPhone softened the effect of the weak economy at AT&T Inc., helping the country's biggest telecommunications carrier beat analyst estimates for the first quarter.

AT&T said Wednesday it earned more than $3.1 billion, or 53 cents per share, in the first three months of 2009, down 10 percent from almost $3.5 billion, or 57 cents per share, a year earlier.

The earnings were reduced by 5 cents per share for increases in pension and retiree expenses. Excluding that item, the earnings were 58 cents per share. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, which generally excludes one-time items, was for earnings of 48 cents per share.

Apple 2Q profit gains 15 percent

n SEATTLE - Strong sales of the iPhone helped Apple Inc. lift its quarterly profit 15 percent, well ahead of Wall Street's expectations Wednesday despite the global economic downturn.

The company also said co-founder Steve Jobs still plans to return from his medical leave as scheduled.

'We look forward to Steve returning to Apple at the end of June,' Apple's chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said in a conference call with analysts. Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities as CEO in January.