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Apple, $300: Investors Still Looking Up

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) approach to $300 brings it close to a $274 billion market cap, second only to Exxon Mobil's (XOM) $315 billion value as the largest U.S. companies by stock value. Apple sits high atop the tech sector, with Microsoft now a distant second at $214 billion.

But even as Apple continues to climb to all-time highs, some analysts see reason to point even higher. On Monday, for example, Canaccord analyst Mike Walkley raised his price target for Apple by $10, to $366.

Helping to drive the Apple gusto is the excitement around the popular iPad. One possible added bonus is Verizon (VZ). Long a holdout on Apple products, the No. 1 telco is expected to start selling a Verizon 3G iPad early next year.

Another element heating up the speculation around the iPad is the coming wave of accessory keyboards that effectively turn the tablet into a notebook. As Best Buy (BBY - Get Report) pointed out earlier this month, iPads are already eroding the demand for netbooks; adding an attachable keypad may further extinguish the mini laptop segment.

Apple did dip slightly Monday after Research In Motion (RIMM) unveiled its 7-inch touchscreen PlayBook tablet aimed directly at the iPad. RIM won't have the PlayBook ready to sell until early next year, but it adds to a list of tablet competitors that may even include Amazon (AMZN).

Still, as bright as Apple's prospects may seem against other gadget makers, it doesn't have the richest valuation among its tech peers.

Apple ranks a mere third in tech for projected earnings growth, or the so-called multiple -- a measure of how much investors are willing to pay for future earnings. Apple's 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio, or value of the current stock to the year-ahead earnings target, is 16.55. Meanwhile, search giant Google (GOOG - Get Report) has a price-to-earnings ratio of 17, and wireless chip shop Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) is the most treasured of the bunch with a P/E of 17.5.

The upshot of all this is that Apple investors can still find reasons -- although fewer and fewer -- that Apple isn't necessarily overvalued at $300.

As one long-time Apple investor said regarding Apple's $300 stock price: "I don't know what to do. It's hard to sell Apple when it's the only stock I have that's going up."

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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