updated 08:00 pm EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
Value of company now more than twice Microsoft
Apple's stock, which has been steadily rising on the back of new product releases and the perception of the executive team as capable of carrying on, has achieved yet another milestone as of closing on Wednesday. Not just "yet another all-time high" in stock price, but a net worth in market capitalization that outranks the entire worth of the combined US retail sector. AAPL is now valued at more than twice Microsoft's market cap as well.
Apple closed Wednesday at $589.58, rising more than $21 or 3.78 percent in a single day today, and that from a previous jump from Tuesday's close of $568 to opening this morning at $582.50. The stock rose as high as $594.72 in intra-day trading, and has climbed up from its closing price to over $592 in after-hours trading. As of Wednesday, the company has a market cap of $549.71 billion.
The rocketing stock is rising due to the intense demand for the latest, third-generation iPad, which will go on sale and presumably sell out on Friday. Rumors that Apple might sell a million iPad units in a single day may be revised upward as lines form at a number of retail outlets around the world, and accessory retailers are bracing for a rise in add-on sales such as cases and Bluetooth keyboards, two of the most popular accessories for iPad owners.
In addition to the iPad and iPhone, Apple's Mac business is also steadily gaining, making Apple the fifth-largest computer vendor worldwide, and the number one vendor if tablets are included as PCs. An expected refresh of the MacBook Air and possibly the MacBook Pro line in the spring, along with a possible years-overdue revamp of the workstation Mac Pro should keep the company's profile and its stock rising in the public eye. The iPhone will also get a refresh later this year, it is assumed, to add LTE support and other improvements.
Every rose has its thorns, however. Apple's increased dominance as a top stock is putting pressure on the company to disperse its enormous cash holdings, either through some level of dividend, a stock split, further acquisitions or a stock buyback program. The increased visibility also brings more political scrutiny, such as controversies about working conditions at the Chinese factories where Apple and other tech companies' products are now assembled, the offshoring of much of Apple's cash reserves, and increased lawsuits from patent trolls and others eyeing the company's deep pockets.