Those who dared to buy Apple stock back when it was mired in the double-digit range are likely very happy people now.
The technology giant's shares have cracked the $500 mark, making it definitively the world's most valuable company, ousting oil behemoth Exxon Mobil. Getting to this point has been incredibly smooth: AAPL has consistently and convincingly outpaced the market for the past several years—and, in fact, has done so with stunning stability, even in an atypically volatile market.
But the most remarkable thing about the company's share price is that, at $500, its price-to-earnings ratio is less than 15, below the industry average. Compare this to a company such as Amazon—whose P/E ratio is well over 100—and you realize that Apple has managed to grow as fast as a growth company while being perceived as a mature, blue-chip stock. And in the technology sector of all places, too!
So it looks like the Foxconn controversy hasn't slowed anything down for Apple, as some anticipated. Nor has Steve Jobs' passing, as many predicted. And with nearly $100 billion cash in the bank, Apple looks equipped to handle any threats it may face to the white-hot iPad and iPhone sales that have been driving this staggering growth.
How high can Apple's stock go, and will the company start spending its cash pile on dividends this year?