NEW YORK — Apple is Wall Street's all-time MVP _that's Most Valuable Property.

On Monday, Apple's surging stock propelled the company's value to $624 billion, the world's highest, ever. It beat the record for market capitalization set by Microsoft Corp. in the heady days of the Internet boom.

After a four-month dip, Apple's stock has hit new highs recently because of optimism around what is believed to be the impending launch of the iPhone 5, and possibly a smaller, cheaper iPad.

Apple Inc. has been the world's most valuable company since the end of last year. It's now worth 54 percent more than No. 2 Exxon Mobil Corp.

Apple's stock closed at $665.15. That was an all-time high, up $17.04, or 2.6 percent, from Friday's close.

Microsoft's 1999 peak was $620.58 billion, according to Standard & Poor's.

The comparison to Microsoft does not take inflation into account. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the software giant was worth about $850 billion on Dec. 30, 1999. Microsoft is now worth $257 billion.

Analysts believe Apple's stock has room to grow. The average price target of 38 analysts polled by FactSet is $745.80.

Despite the surge, Apple's stock is not particularly expensive compared to its earnings for the last twelve months. The company's "price-to-earnings ratio" is 15.6, compared with 16.1 for the S&P 500 overall. That suggests investors, unlike analysts, don't believe the company can grow its profits much from current levels.

Microsoft had a price-to-earnings ratio of 83 at the 1999 peak. The stock was caught up in the Internet mania of the time and investors believed it could boost its future earnings massively.

Analysts believe the launch of a new iPhone in a month or two will be Apple's biggest product introduction yet.

Scott Sutherland at Wedbush Morgan noted that some investors sold Apple shares last summer, when iPhone sales slowed down as consumers started holding off for the new model. Those investors missed out on a 50 percent jump in the stock price.

"This time around, investors are a little bit smarter across the board ... they don't want to be caught not involved in the stock on this next iPhone launch," Sutherland said.

Analysts also speculate that a "mini iPad," could expand the number of people who can afford one of Apple's tablets. The cheapest iPad cost $399, compared to $199 for the latest Google and Amazon tablets.

Analysts are speculating _based on rumors_ that Apple plans to make a TV set to complete its suite of consumer electronics products.

Apple usually doesn't comment on its future product plans until a few weeks or days before a launch.

Apple's stock surge has made it a major part of many investment portfolios, often without the investors realizing it. The company makes up 4.7 percent of the value of the S&P 500 index, which is used as the basis for many mutual funds.

Figures supplied by FactSet imply Microsoft's market capitalization record was $619.25 billion, somewhat lower than the $620.58 billion calculated by S&P. The difference lies in the number of outstanding shares the firms ascribe to Microsoft at the time.

China's largest oil company, PetroChina, could lay claim to having hit a market capitalization even higher than Apple's, because of the particularities of the Chinese stock market.

PetroChina was briefly worth $1 trillion after it listed on the Shanghai stock exchange in 2007, but only based on its price on that exchange, which is isolated from the rest of the financial world because of Chinese laws on foreign investment. PetroChina's shares also trade in Hong Kong and on the New York Stock Exchange. Based on prices there, its market capitalization never went as high as $500 billion.

By coincidence, the peak price for one Apple share is now less than $2 away from the retail price of the Apple I computer in 1976. It sold for $666.66.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • So, So Much News About The 'iPad Mini'

    Just as this week's political news cycle surrounded Paul Ryan and how he fits in with Mitt Romney, so too has this week's tech cycle revolved around a smaller, thinner, more mysterious version of a well-known public entity: We are talking, of course, about the iPad Mini, the long-rumored miniaturized version of the 10-inch iPad that is said to have a 7.0-inch screen and a low, low price tag (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/paul-ryan-worth-millions-_n_1774346.html?utm_hp_ref=elections-2012" target="_hplink">uh, not Ryan-esque</a>) to compete with the likes of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. Ayn Rand fetishizers aside (and at the risk of straining an already tenuous metaphor), there were three notable reports concerning the iPad Mini to bubble up this week. The first comes from Canada's number one Apple blog iMore, which you may remember as the well-sourced news outlet who first predicted the iPad 3's release date as well as the widely-accepted September Apple event date for the iPhone 5. This time, iMore is <a href="http://www.imore.com/ipad-mini-smaller-bezel-incredibly-thin-and-light" target="_hplink">hearing some fresh whispers</a> about the form and release date of the iPad Mini (which it still claims will be announced on September 12, along with the new iPhone). iMore hears that the iPad Mini will have the same thickness as the (super-thin) iPod Touch; that it will be much lighter than the current iPad; and that it will cost between $200 and $250. <a href="http://www.imore.com/ipad-mini-smaller-bezel-incredibly-thin-and-light" target="_hplink">More on that at iMore</a>. 9to5Mac, meanwhile, <a href="http://9to5mac.com/2012/08/14/ipad-mini-will-look-like-a-large-ipod-touch-with-smaller-side-bezels-gallery/" target="_hplink">not only has a mock-up</a> (drink!) of what it thinks are the dimensions of the iPad Mini (at left); it also has some information of its own, too. The iPad Mini, it says, will look a lot like a bigger iPod Touch, rather than a smaller iPad. (Maybe instead of the iPad Mini, they could call it the iPod Maxi? iMaxiPad? Tim Cook, are you listening?). It puts the price at somewhere between $200 and $300, for a launch in November/December. <a href="http://9to5mac.com/2012/08/14/ipad-mini-will-look-like-a-large-ipod-touch-with-smaller-side-bezels-gallery/" target="_hplink">More at 9to5Mac</a>, including what this thing might look like next to the Nexus 7. Finally, John Gruber of Daring Fireball (who is close like Glenn with Apple PR folks) <a href="http://daringfireball.net/2012/08/ipad_mini_even_througher" target="_hplink">weighs in with his own predictions</a>, especially as it concerns pixel density, aspect ratio, bezel size, the precise millimeter measure of each dimension, etc. If this is how you like to spend your time, <a href="http://daringfireball.net/2012/08/ipad_mini_even_througher" target="_hplink">you can read that here</a>; Gruber does predict that an iPad Mini will be quite thin and quite light and that it will more closely resemble an iPad than an iPod Touch, which seems to be the hot debate nowadays (in certain circles). What all of this indicates, when taken together with the reports from Bloomberg and Reuters, is that an iPad Mini (or iPad Air, or iPad Nano, or whatever) is looking more likely than ever to arrive in stores by the end of 2012. We had previously catalogued the ways in which Apple PR was likely leaking details about the next iPhone; the past month's iPadito rumors are probably coming from the same place. Apple is priming for an iPad Mini launch: Expect it by Christmas, if not sooner. And now, I know you've been doing that little dance you do when you really have to pee but the bathroom is occupied: Hold it in no more, hear is your weekly dose of iPhone 5 rumors...

  • LTE iPhone 5 Coming Soon, Preorders on September 12?

    Two biggies this week on the iPhone 5 front: First, iMore (hello again, long time no see!) <a href="http://www.imore.com/iphone-5-pe-orders-planned-september-12-second-release-wave-first-week-october" target="_hplink">wagers that the next iPhone</a> will go on sale for preorder on September 12 (the day of that launch event) with an in-store availability on September 21. That's essentially a reiteration of its past reporting: iMore, like almost every other news outlet with close ties to Apple, is expecting a Tim Cook-led event to occur on September 12 or thereabouts, with an international roll-out the following week. End of story. Second, and another bit of reiteration, to be honest, <a href="http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/tech/2012/08/133_117435.html" target="_hplink">the Korea Times is reporting that</a> the next iPhone will indeed pack 4G LTE, to which the entire world says "DUH!" The latest iPad, of course, is 4G LTE-capable, and if the next iPhone is not then there is going to be an inquiry: Apple has lagged behind Android and Windows Phones in adding the faster network to its smartphone, a gap that it should eliminate with the iPhone 5. There were some other minor nibbles on the line, too: We're <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/08/13/apples_new_mini_dock_connector_to_feature_9_pin_orientation_independent_design___sources.html" target="_hplink">still hearing that</a> the dock connector on the next iPhone is going to be greatly reduced in size, rendering decades of Apple accessories useless; we're still seeing a ton of internal parts leak out from the factories, all of which <a href="http://venturebeat.com/2012/08/13/this-diagram-makes-sense-of-all-the-leaked-iphone-5-parts/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Venturebeat+%28VentureBeat%29" target="_hplink">have been collected and diagrammed here for you</a>. Boy Genius Report, meanwhile, <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2012/08/13/iphone-5-release-date-att/" target="_hplink">hears that AT&T retail employees</a> who request the final week of September off are being denied vacation, as that carrier prepares for the megalithic mega-launch of the iPhone 5. We're under a month away, presumably, folks. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/iphone-sell-iphone-5_n_1772902.html" target="_hplink">Start preparing your old device for a trade-in</a>, because all evidence indicates that a new model is being mass-produced for a September debut.

  • Apple Television Already In Production?

    We close this week with another mountain of news about a long-rumored Apple product: The Apple Television. First, Apple analyst Peter Misek of the firm Jeffries & Co. (DISCLOSURE: My dad's name is Jeffrey) <a href="http://www.macrumors.com/2012/08/17/analyst-believes-apple-television-set-already-in-full-production-launch-timeframe-unclear/" target="_hplink">put out a note to investors</a> in which he says that he "believes" that the Apple television is already in production in Asia for a launch that could occur as soon as this winter to as late as the beginning of 2013. There's not much substance in the note about what the Apple television would actually do or what would set it apart, besides a fancy logo and the Apple pedigree, but let's step back for a moment: Could Apple really release a new iPhone, a smaller iPad, AND a brand new TV within six months of one another? Would that be -- and I don't mean to be sacrilege here -- too much Apple in too little time? Perhaps, which is a snafu that Misek notes in his, uh, note. But, <a href="http://www.macrumors.com/2012/08/17/analyst-believes-apple-television-set-already-in-full-production-launch-timeframe-unclear/" target="_hplink">he writes</a>, because of increased competition in the phone and tablet space (damn you, Nexus 7 and Microsoft Surface!), the sooner Apple can expand into new territory like televisions, the better. So, you could be watching this year's Orange Bowl on an Apple-made television. Unless, says the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>...

  • Could The First Step Toward An Apple Television Be A Souped-Up, "Grease Lightning"-Style Apple TV Box?

    That's what <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444233104577591713616924328.html" target="_hplink">a pair</a> <a href="http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444375104577593693481339210.html" target="_hplink">of fresh reports</a> from the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> suggests, at least. The <em>Journal</em> -- which has an excellent relationship with Apple brass -- hears that Apple is in talks with cable companies to let them build a kind of souped-up cable box, one that would replace the box you currently rent from your cable company. You would still be paying for cable, but Apple would be making the set-top box: Apple's vision includes social sharing features (like you might find on Boxee), a Cloud DVR feature that would allow you to start a show from the beginning even if you turned it on a few minutes late, and a redesigned, icon-centric interface similar to the home screen of your iPad. Should Apple convince a Time Warner or a Comcast to let it make cable boxes, it could be a first glimpse at what the so-called 'iTV' television set might offer; that television, which <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/briancaulfield/2011/10/21/steve-jobs-on-tv-i-finally-cracked-it/" target="_hplink">the late Steve Jobs confirmed Apple was indeed working on</a>, will supposedly revolutionize the television viewing and discovery experience (though <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/itv-ipod-why-apples-tv-wont-be-nearly-as-disruptive-as-you-hope/261270/" target="_hplink">not everyone is convinced</a>). A cable box built by Apple might hint at that TV's functionality: First we'll get the interface on the set-top box, and then we'll get the hardware, the flat-screen television. Good things come to those who wait, you know. That's all for <strong>This Week In Apple Rumors</strong>. Make sure to check back next week, where we'll discuss whether viewing <em>The Newsroom</em> on an Apple television would make it any better. And if you can't wait until next week, you can always get up-to-the-minute Apple rumors by <a href="http://twitter.com/gilbertjasono" target="_hplink">following me on Twitter right here</a>.