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Apple Eyes Historic $3 Trillion Valuation Amid Tech Surge

Apple Eyes Historic $3 Trillion Valuation Amid Tech Surge
Shoppers look at Apple Inc. iPhone products in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. A price measure that strips out energy costs and the effect of interest-rate changes rose 8.2% from a year earlier, according to data published by Statistics Sweden on Wednesday.

Apple Inc. is on the verge of becoming the first company to ever close with a market value of $3 trillion, the latest sign of big tech’s seemingly unstoppable dominance on Wall Street.

The iPhone maker gained 1.2% on Friday, resulting in a market capitalization of $3.01 trillion and bringing its gain for the year to 47%. Its year-to-date rally has added more than $940 billion to the company’s size.

The milestone underscores the dominance of tech megacaps in the broader stock market this year. The group has eclipsed traditional growth stocks and led some to question the viability of the rally that caught many strategists off guard, as it faces potentially more Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes.

Apple Rally Takes Stock to $3 Trillion

Read more: Nasdaq 100 Adds $5 Trillion in Record Start to Year: Tech Watch

Big tech’s strength in 2023 has lifted the Nasdaq 100 Index 39%. Excitement over artificial intelligence has fueled much of the gain, though investors have also gravitated toward the kind of quality factors that Apple has in spades, including a strong balance sheet, durable revenue streams, and a robust competitive position.

“The reason Apple has outperformed for more than a decade isn’t because investors are being foolhardy, but because it is executing on a business strategy that works, its earnings plan is working, and its lock on the consumer is only getting stronger,” said Jonathan Curtis, director of portfolio management for Franklin Equity Group.

He is not surprised that Apple would be the first to reach the milestone.

“The balance sheet is phenomenal, it pays a dividend it can continue to grow, it has an active repurchasing program, and a consumer staples-esque platform business, all powered by a device people look at four hours a day,” Curtis said.

In a sign of Wall Street’s ongoing optimism about the stock, Citi on Thursday began coverage of Apple with a buy rating, writing that its ability to continue expanding margins was underappreciated. It sees additional upside of about 30% for the stock, a target that would take Apple close to a $4 trillion valuation.

The Trillion-Dollar Club

Apple first became the world’s most valuable stock in 2011, when its market cap was under $340 billion and it comprised about 3.3% of the S&P 500. Since then, it has rarely forfeit that title. It first reached $1 trillion in value in mid-2018, and it achieved a $2 trillion valuation in August 2020, making it the first US company to surpass that level, though Saudi Aramco was the first $2 trillion company overall.

The iPhone maker briefly rose above the $3 trillion level in early 2022, although it failed to close above it, and that peak marked the start of a downtrend that has now been fully erased.

Companies of this size are few and far between, and in the US the club is populated only by other megacap technology and internet stocks, including Alphabet Inc., Inc., and chipmaker Nvidia Corp., which became the first trillion-dollar chipmaker earlier this year. Microsoft Corp is the only other US stock with a valuation above $2 trillion.

Tech Stocks Dominate List of Most Valuable Companies

While Apple is not the biggest gainer of the year — Nvidia, Meta Platforms Inc., and Tesla Inc. have more than doubled — its size gives it a massive influence over markets, accounting for 7.6% of the weight of the S&P 500 Index.

Still, the milestone doesn’t mean smooth sailing for Apple from here. The stock trades at nearly 30 times forward earnings, and while this is down from a 2020 peak above 35, it remains well above its 10-year average multiple of 17.9.

Read more: Apple $3 Trillion Valuation Isn’t About the Headset: Tech Daily

Despite Citi’s new bull call, analysts have been pulling back on the stock amid the year’s rally. Fewer than 70% of the firms tracked by Bloomberg recommend buying the stock, the lowest such ratio among the trillion-dollar stocks. Furthermore, its consensus rating — a proxy for its ratio of buy, hold, and sell ratings — is near its lowest since November 2020. A recent downgrade from UBS was the latest example of weaker sentiment.

Furthermore, Apple is above the average price target, suggesting analysts aren’t anticipating much in the way of additional gains from current levels.


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