updated 09:09 pm EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Stock is up 27.29 percent for 2014 thus far, new products ahead
Apple's stock closed on Friday at an all-time record high, on a straight split-adjusted basis, cracking $101 per share. The 74-cent rise on Friday rang down the curtain on a week that saw the stock gain just over $3 per share, culminating in the record-breaking performance weeks ahead of anticipated new product announcements, and months before the start of the holiday buying season, which is again expected to favor Apple over its primary rivals. Thus far in 2014, AAPL is up 27.29 percent.
The previous all-time high closing of $705.07 ($100.73 in split-adjusted terms) was reached in September of 2012, though since that time there has been both additional stock created and retired by the split, employee awards, and Apple's aggressive share buyback program, respectively. While AAPL has broken its previous record on a straight-adjusted 7:1 basis, the stock will really have to move towards $110 per share -- which would likely the market cap back to its high of $658.15 billion, achieved about a week after the previous stock high -- before long-term investors will really consider it to have grown beyond its previous peak value. Currently, the company is valued at around $606 billion.
With a promised large pipeline of fall announcements ahead, and the traditional boost of the holiday buying season, the short term looks rosy for the company -- even if it doesn't quite tick all the boxes on analysts' wish lists. Investors have been buoyed by evidence that the expected larger-screen iPhone 6 models (said to be 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch, but less confirmed on the latter) may help the company pull marketshare away from the Android platform.
There is also the matter of Apple's expanding presence in China and the other BRIC countries, growth in other developing markets, and a larger pool of potential upgraders and switchers in the US -- the latter thanks to the emergence of carrier programs that make swapping out phones for newer models much more flexible. However, Apple may have some other arrows in its quiver even if growth expectations for the iPhone aren't fully realized.
In addition to its top-selling product, iPad sales are expected to see a boost from the release of the sixth-generation iPad, in the forms of the second iPad Air and third iPad mini. While neither is expected to offer any radical design changes, the move to iOS 8 couple with both products' incremental improvements are thought to be enough to draw upgraders from the popular and long-selling iPad 2 and short-lived third-gen iPad, possibly establishing the notion that the tablets will have a more computer-like life-cycle compared to the 24-month iPhone major revision and upgrade cycle.
Finally, there are expectation and hopes for a number of other as-yet-unannounced Apple products, ranging from a revamped Apple TV set-top box to at least one all-new product, such as the rumored "iWatch" fitness device. Updates and potential revamps to lines like the Mac mini and MacBook Air may also be in the cards, on top of the planned upgrades to OS X 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8, which both bring new integration and features to users.
Apple, which begins its fiscal new year on October 1, is clearly planning to start the year off with a bang. There are, however a few items already announced that may not appear until after Christmas, or into 2015. Apple has already said that Photos, its revamped photo-management and editing software for both OS X and iOS, will wait until after New Years -- and recent delays in next-gen Intel chips could push some model revisions (such as hoped-for second-gen Mac Pro) into the new year as well.
On the whole, however, the company looks to be executing pretty well - the stock has risen more than 86 percent since Tim Cook became permanent CEO three years ago -- and has gained in investor and analyst confidence in recent months, suggesting that while the market may ebb and flow, AAPL is likely to keep growing past current analyst targets -- particularly if its new products and services do well with the public.