NEW YORK – Apple is Wall Street’s all-time MVP – that’s Most Valuable Property.
On Monday, Apple’s surging stock propelled the company’s value to $623 billion, the world’s highest. It beat the record for market capitalization set by Microsoft Corp. in the heady days of the Internet boom.
After a four-month dip, Apple’s stock has hit highs recently because of optimism around what is believed to be the impending launch of the iPhone 5, and possibly a smaller, cheaper iPad.
Apple Inc. has been the world’s most valuable company since the end of last year. It’s now worth 53 percent more than No. 2 Exxon Mobil Corp.
Apple’s stock hit $664.74 in midday trading before retreating slightly to $662.38. That was $14.27, or 2.2 percent, higher than Friday’s close.
Microsoft’s 1999 peak was $620.58 billion, according to Standard & Poor’s. The comparison to Microsoft does not take inflation into account. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the software giant was worth about $850 billion on Dec. 30, 1999. Microsoft is now worth $257 billion.
Analysts believe Apple’s stock has room to grow. The average price target of 38 analysts polled by FactSet is $745.80.
Despite the surge, Apple’s stock is not particularly expensive compared with its earnings for the last twelve months. The company’s “price-to-earnings ratio” is 15.6, compared to 16.1 for the S&P 500 overall. That suggests investors, unlike analysts, don’t believe the company can grow its profits much from current levels.
By contrast, Microsoft had a price-to-earnings ratio of 83 at the 1999 peak. The stock was caught up in the Internet mania of the time, and investors believed it could boost its future earnings massively.
Many analysts believe the launch of a new iPhone in a month or two will be Apple’s biggest product introduction yet.
Apple’s stock surge has made it a major part of many investment portfolios, often without the investors realizing it. The company makes up 4.7 percent of the value of the S&P 500 index, which is used as the basis for many mutual funds.
China’s largest oil company, PetroChina, could lay claim to having hit a market capitalization even higher than Apple’s, because of the particularities of the Chinese stock market.
PetroChina was briefly worth $1 trillion after it listed on the Shanghai stock exchange in 2007, but only based on its price on that exchange, which is isolated from the rest of the financial world because of Chinese laws on foreign investment.
PetroChina’s shares also trade in Hong Kong and on the New York Stock Exchange. Based on prices there, its market capitalization never went as high as $500 billion.