Apple Inc. shares on Monday broke the $500 mark for the first time, the latest milestone in an almost unbroken rise over the last decade, solidifying its place as the world's most valuable company by market value at close to $466 billion.
The stock spiked up 2% in early trading Monday, hitting $503.73, before dropping back below $500 later.
In early 2002, Apple's stock was worth $10 per share. (That's adjusted for its single split in 2005). But years of industry-changing hits -- including the iPod in music, the iPhone in personal telephony, and the iPad for computing -- have lifted the company's shares as investors bet with increasing confidence that the company would not stop growing any time soon.
Apple is now coasting off of the best quarter in its 35-year history, having sold a record number of iPhones (37 million) and iPads (15.4 million) en route to $46.3 billion in revenue, one of the strongest quarters ever for a technology company.
Revenue in its holiday quarter surged 74% to a record $46.3 billion, and profit more than doubled to $13.1 billion, trouncing Wall Street's expectations.
Analysts believe that 2012 could be even better, with many predicting that Apple will unveil a new iPad in March, a newly redesigned iPhone during the summer and potentially an Apple-branded television set later in the year.
"We think that Apple is going to have the biggest product cycle in their history this year," said Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co, after the company announced its earnings in late January.