Apple's market capitalization dipped lower than $500 billion for the first time in almost six months, falling out of a select club that it joined for the first time earlier this year.
Apple became only the sixth company in U.S. history to attain a market cap -- the total value of all shares in a company -- higher than $500 billion in February, and had stayed above that level since mid-May. In that time, Apple's market cap passed $600 billion and established a record for the largest market cap in U.S. history, without adjusting for inflation: At its peak intraday price of $705.07, the Cupertino tech giant had a market cap of $663.3 billion.
However, since hitting that peak price on Sept. 21, the day the company launched the iPhone 5, Apple stock has taken a nose-dive amid analyst angst and consumer disappointment with the company's iPad Mini launch and iPad refresh, declining market share in tablets, an executive shake-up that axed a respected software executive, and production problems causing delays in iPhone 5 shipments. From the end of trading on Sept. 21 to Wednesday's close, Apple stock had fallen 23.9 percent, which investors consider "bear market" territory.
In Thursday morning's trading session, Apple shares fell as low as $525.25, for a market cap of $494.1
billion; at 9 a.m. Pacific time, shares were trading for $526.02, a loss of 2 percent.
Other companies that attained the rare market cap level also fell back rather quickly. Four companies -- fellow Silicon Valley technology giants Cisco (CSCO) and Intel (INTC), software rival Microsoft and General Electric -- surpassed a $500 billion market cap in the heady days of the dot-com boom, in 1999 and 2000, but dropped out rather quickly when the dot-com bust sent tech stocks reeling. Oil giant Exxon Mobil attained a market cap north of $500 billion twice in 2007, but has not matched that mark since.
Apple remains the most valuable company in the United States in terms of market capitalization, with Exxon Mobil trailing with a market cap less than $400 billion.
Analysts believe Apple will bounce back: Of 54 analysts tracked by MarketWatch, none believe investors should sell the shares and only six rate Apple a "Hold." The average price target of the analysts -- the price at which they believe investors should sell the stock for maximum return -- rested at $774.44 Thursday.
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