POSTED: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 12:15pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 12:19pm
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Apple's stock hit a new high early Tuesday, crossing $700 for the first time and marking yet another milestone for a company that has had plenty of them this year.
The stock hit an record high of $701.44 in morning trading.
The tech giant's stock has risen sharply in the past few weeks in anticipation of the unveiling of the iPhone 5. The smartphone's launch last Wednesday impressed consumers and investors alike: The company raked in a record 2 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours, double the 1 million first-day orders recorded last year by the iPhone 4S.
Last month, Apple became the most valuable company of all time when its market capitalization soared past $619 billion -- the record Microsoft had held since December 1999. Apple's market cap is now $656 billion.
With new gadgets on the horizon, including the iPhone 5, the new iPad, and yet-to-be-announced gizmos like the iPad mini and a long-awaited Apple TV update, Apple has crossed the $400 billion, $500 billion and $600 billion marks -- all in 2012 -- as the stock has soared 80% this year.
The astronomical rise isn't entirely without merit. Apple's iPhone business alone now brings in more money than Microsoft. Even the iPad, which was intended to be a gap-filling product between the iPhone and the Macintosh, has itself become a multi-billion dollar product for Apple.
Yet some caution that the stock is rising too quickly and is in danger of becoming overvalued.
Apple's stock is now trading at 16 times fiscal 2013 earnings estimates, which isn't all that expensive compared to some other tech companies with wild triple-digit price-to-earnings ratios, such as Amazon and Facebook. But its share price has been outpacing earnings expectations by a long shot -- shares were trading at 12 times future earnings forecasts as recently as February.
Still, investors aren't shying away. Apple has begun putting that $117 billion in cash to good use, paying out a sizable dividend to shareholders.
So how much higher can Apple's stock soar? Much will likely depend on how much future product releases impress. But with a product lineup that is expected to smash through more sales records, Apple's shares see no signs of letting up.