The $500 Apple

Today, shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) crossed over the $500 threshold for the first time ever. That means that the stock has gained almost 20% in the past month alone! Of course, this is mostly due to Apple’s stunning earnings announcement on January 24. In the first quarter, the company boasted 73% sales growth, topping analyst estimates by 19%. The tech giant’s bottom line also more than doubled to $13.06 billion, and trounced the consensus estimate by almost 30%!

These fantastic top- and bottom-line results are mostly attributable to the 37.04 million iPhones sold in the first quarter, representing a 128% jump in units sold over Q1 2011. Additionally, the tech giant sold 15.43 million iPads (a 111% increase) and 5.2 million Macs (a 26% climb). The only Apple product that declined was the iPod, of which the company sold 21% fewer units compared with last year.

And, this wasn’t the first milestone that Apple reached in the New Year; just a few weeks ago, Apple surpassed Exxon Mobile (XOM) as the most valuable company in America. The two companies are now neck-in-neck in terms of market cap, but I think that Apple will soon leave Exxon far behind. Just take a look at how my Portfolio Grader tool grades the two stocks; whereas Exxon has had lackluster buying pressure for some time now, Apple has continued to pique investor interest consistently for the past twelve months.

This is because Apple knows how to keep thing fresh. Rumors are already circulating about an iPad 3 launch in March; the newest iteration is expected to be a little thicker with a more sophisticated camera. There is also talk of an iPhone 5 and an iTV television being released in 2012.

I consider Apple a healthy addition to any balanced portfolio. Just know that this stock is known for the occasional price swing, but if you can weather some of the short-term dips, this stock is looking great for the long run.

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