Are Apple shares headed for $700?

Personal device maker now the most valuable U.S. company in history

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) hit a new all-time high in early trading Tuesday before retreating slightly by late morning. The personal device maker's stock reached 674.88 shortly after the 9:30 a.m. opening bell, but fell into the red by 11 a.m., hitting 660.66, down slightly from Monday's closing price of 665.15. That closing price put Apple's market capitalization at $623.5 billion, establishing a new record value for U.S. companies previously held by Microsoft, which closed at $616.3 billion on Dec. 27, 1999. Apple shares were below 600.00 as recently as July 30, before clawing their way above 630.00 on Aug. 15. From there the stock popped above 660.00 on Monday, even as Cupertino continues to battle Samsung in a patent-infringement lawsuit involving the iPhone. The latest surge comes as good news to shareholders who bought the stock near its previous all-time highs in April, when it appeared Apple was steaming toward the 700.00 mark. Instead, shares retreated after nearly doubling from last November, when it was trading below 370.00. Now Apple appears poised to make a serious run at 700.00. Wall Street firm Jefferies on Friday reiterated its buy rating on Apple, boosting its 12-month target price to $900 from $800 on reports that manufacturers were cranking out the company's next tablet device, the iPad mini. Also likely pushing shares up is anticipation of Apple's next version of the iPhone, which is rumored to be unveiled on Sept. 12 and which many analysts expect to be a major upgrade.

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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