Apple beat Wall Street's revenue and profit forecasts last night as it said it sold more iPhones in China than the US for the first time, but the company gave no sales figures for its new Apple Watch. 

Apple's iPhone sales in China soared, increasing its revenue in the country 71% to $16.8 billion, although that was helped by gift-buying for Chinese New Year. 

The company's chief executive Tim Cook said that China's expanding middle class is fueling iPhone sales there, which is the bulk of the company's sales.

The iPhone 6 was launched last autumn in China with a number of carriers. 

Apple said it sold 61.2 million iPhones in the quarter, up 40% from the year-ago quarter, but down from the record-breaking Christmas quarter.

It sold 12.6 million iPads, down 23% from a year ago. 

Its big screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have been popular with customers worldwide, helping the company overtake rival Samsung in global smartphone sales last quarter. 

Apple gave no sales figures for its recently released Apple Watch, but did say the current quarter was off to "an exciting start".

Cook said demand for the watch continued to be greater than supply, as it has been since pre-orders started earlier this month.

"From a demand point of view, it's hard to gauge when you don't have product in stores," said Cook on a conference call with analysts. 

Apple is only selling the watch online and in select third-party boutiques due to the large number of models and straps for the watch, which could become a logistics nightmare if it offered every permutation of the many varieties at already jam-packed Apple stores. 

The most valuable publicly traded US company raised its quarterly dividend 11% to 52 cents per share and boosted its share repurchase programme to $140 billion from $90 billion announced last year. 

Together, Apple estimated that would mean returning $200 billion to shareholders by the end of March 2017. It ended the quarter with $193.5 billion in cash and marketable securities, up more than $15 billion from the last quarter. 

Apple said net income for the fiscal second quarter rose to $13.57 billion, or $2.33 per share, from $10.22 billion, or $1.66 per share, a year earlier. 

Analysts had expected earnings per share of $2.16 per share, according to Thomson Reuters. 

Overall revenue rose to $58.01 billion in the second quarter ended March 28, from $45.65 billion a year earlier. That beat Wall Street's expected revenue of $56 billion. 

Apple said it expected fiscal third-quarter revenue of $46 billion to $48 billion, in line with analysts' average forecast of $47 billion.