Apple plunges after slashing revenue guidance for its holiday quarter (AAPL)

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In his letter, Cook said that more than 100% of the company's worldwide revenue decline was in China for sales of iPhones, Macs and iPads.

A senior White House economic adviser said he expected trade uncertainty to hit earnings at many US companies, but that sales at Apple and others with large exposure to China would recover once Washington and Beijing strike a trade deal.

Apple's stock price hovered around the $143-$144 mark in the first few minutes of trading, down about 9% from Wednesday's closing price of $157.92.

Apple on Wednesday evening cut its revenue guidance for its crucial holiday quarter.

A warning from Apple about a sales slump in China sent shockwaves through stock markets yesterday and prompted one market analyst to say that the surprise announcement marked Apple's "darkest day in the iPhone era".

"It's going to bring home the point to most investors that this trade war is an issue, it's out there, it's getting worse and that you can't just be hopeful that we're going to have a resolution at the end of February", said Michael O'Rourke, JonesTrading's chief market strategist.

One of the problems for Apple's services business, the Macquarie Research analysts noted, is that some of its biggest drivers of sales like Apple Care support and app store revenue are likely to shrink while faster growing services like iCloud and Apple Music "are not big enough to offset the slowdown". These figures apply to the first quarter of fiscal 2019.

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In December, Bloomberg News reported the company was facing a "fire drill" to boost iPhone sales. "Until it changes this pricing strategy, it is unlikely to see market share growth and will most likely see a gradual contraction as iPhone users upgrade at slower rates", said Richardson.

"I think the main villain is the very high prices that Apple is charging for its new iPhones", said Richard Windsor, a technology analyst who writes the Radio Free Mobile blog.

Apple had previously estimated it would earn revenues of $89 to $93 billion in the most recent quarter.

Cook said the new iPhone models were released earlier than the flagship iPhone X last year, which created a hard year-over-year comparison. However, Cook admitted to staff that Apple didn't set a new record for iPhone sales in Q1.

"This is just another little tea leaf as to the goings on behind the curtain in China and last night's PMI coming out weaker than people thought", said Kevin Caron, a senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Sales in China, which The Wall Street Journal says account for nearly 20 percent of global sales, have dropped amid President Donald Trump's trade war with Beijing.

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