On a challenging day for stocks, Apple shares managed to outperform the market. The earnings report from AT&T, the No. 3 U.S. telecom company, likely contributed to this positive performance.

In the third quarter, AT&T reported a profit of 64 cents per share, surpassing the expectations of analysts tracked by FactSet, who were anticipating 62 cents per share. The company's revenue reached $30.4 billion, a 1% increase compared to the previous year and slightly higher than the $30.2 billion anticipated by Wall Street.

The boost in sales was partly driven by Apple's involvement in the quarter. AT&T's CEO, John Stankey, revealed that September saw the highest number of iPhone preorders in many years. Notably, AT&T introduced Apple's new iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max models in stores with an enticing trade-in offer of up to $1,000 in credit. By committing to unlimited voice and data plans instead of the cheaper Value Plus plan, customers could essentially obtain the new models at minimal cost.

Competitors T-Mobile and Verizon also have their own offers for iPhones. However, Craig Moffett, founder and analyst at MoffettNathanson, regarded these latest promotional deals from the "Big Three" as aggressive but not significantly more so than last year.

While it remains uncertain whether the strong demand observed at AT&T is exclusive to the company, Stankey acknowledged that customers were upgrading to the new iPhone models at a higher rate compared to previous quarters.

AT&T's optimistic outlook on iPhone demand bodes well for Apple's stock. The iPhone stands as Apple's most crucial product, accounting for 48% of sales in the quarter ending in June. Since the phone typically represents approximately half of sales each quarter, Apple must maintain its appeal with each new iteration.

Investors undoubtedly took note of Stankey's comments. While Apple's stock closed down by 0.2% on Thursday, it spent a majority of the day in positive territory, whereas the S&P index closed down 0.9% and mostly experienced losses throughout the day.

It is worth mentioning that AT&T's stock experienced a significant increase of 6.4%.

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