Apple, $300: Investors Still Looking Up

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple's (AAPL) 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) 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) has a price-to-earnings ratio of 17, and wireless chip shop Qualcomm ( QCOM) 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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