Barely a year after supplanting Exxon Mobil as the largest stock in the current marketplace, Apple entered the record books Monday, becoming the most valuable stock to have ever traded.
With Monday's gain, Apple (AAPL) eclipsed Microsoft's (MSFT) peak market cap of $618.9 billion, a level that Microsoft hit over 12 1/2 years ago, on Dec. 30, 1999. That happened at the height of the dot-com boom and just three months before the Nasdaq Composite peaked at its all-time high of 5,132.52.
Nothing seems to be slowing down Apple's stock these days. Shares have been on the rise over the past three months in high anticipation of new iPhone and iPad models that have been predicted to hit stores during the second half of this year. Even a disappointing earnings report late last month did little to spook investors as they remained focused on the widely expected, but not yet formally announced, iPhone launch next month.
Despite paying a dividend last week for the first time since 1995, Apple's stock quietly closed at historic highs and saw its market cap close above $600 billion for the first time on Friday.
In fact, Apple has seen its market cap double from $300 billion to $600 billion in a mere 19 months. Now at over $619 billion, Apple's colossal market cap is roughly equivalent to the combined market caps of tech titans IBM (IBM), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
As Apple's stock continues to push higher, the gap between its market cap and that of the second largest company, Exxon Mobil (XOM), continues to widen.
Apple's stock is now more than 50 percent bigger than Exxon Mobil, with over $200 billion now separating the two companies' market caps. That's a large gap, considering only nine stocks in the S&P 500 have a market cap of $200 billion or more.
The difference between Apple and Exxon Mobil's market caps is bigger than the individual market caps of 98 percent of the S&P 500 companies.
Key Apple Market Cap Milestones
- May 30, 2007 - Apple tops $100 billion
- March 9, 2010 - Apple passes $200 billion
- May 26, 2010 - Apple becomes 2nd largest stock, surpassing Microsoft's market cap of $219 billion
- Jan. 3, 2011 - Apple crosses $300 billion milestone
- Aug. 10, 2011 - Apple becomes world's largest stock, topping Exxon Mobil's $331 billion market cap
- Jan. 25, 2012 - Apple rises to $400 billion
- Feb. 29, 2012 - Apple becomes 5th stock ever to cross $500 billion
- Aug. 17, 2012 - Apple closes with a $600 billion market cap for the first time
*Based on closing (not intraday) market cap values
Source: CNBC Analytics and S&P Capital IQ
Apple's record market cap also comes almost exactly a year after co-founder Steve Jobs abruptly resigned as CEO due to ongoing health issues. When he resigned on Aug. 24, 2011, some people grew concerned that Apple's growth could slow without Jobs' intrepid and visionary leadership.
Despite the change in leadership, Apple's stock has continued to soar over the past year. Since Tim Cook succeeded Jobs last August, shares of Apple have risen 76 percent.
During this period, only five stocks on the Nasdaq 100 and 12 stocks on the S&P 500 have outperformed Apple. Additionally, while Apple remains absent from the Dow Industrials, it should not go unnoticed that Apple has outperformed all of the 30 Dow stocks since Cook's tenure began.
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