Apple CEO Tim Cook waves to customers before they enter Apple's flagship 5th Avenue store to purchase the new iPhone 11 on September 20, 2019 in New York City. Apple's new iPhone 11 goes on sale today at the grand re-opening of the 5th Avenue store.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Apple's iPhone sales in China rose more than 18% last month, according to government data published by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank.
The news drove Apple stock up more than 2% Thursday, bringing the stock to a fresh all-time high of $309.45, according to FactSet.
Apple shipped 3.2 million iPhones in China through December. That figure was up from 2.7 million units shipped in December 2018. China is a key growth area for Apple, which has struggled against low-cost phone makers that sell Android phones.
According to November data from Counterpoint Research, Apple had just 8 percent of the market share in China during the third quarter of 2019, down from 9 percent during the same time period in 2018. Huawei is the market leader with a 40 percent share, trailed by Vivo, Oppo and Xiomi.
The recent numbers on iPhone sales are a welcome sign of optimism in the crucial market, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note Thursday.
"This news only furthers our positive bullish thesis on Apple heading into 2020 given our recent positive Asia checks, 5G technology/upgrades around the corner, and our belief that China will continue this positive upward trajectory with renewed growth and share gains on the heels of an iPhone 11 product cycle which the skeptics continue to underestimate," he said.