If Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) share price rises another 4%, the company’s market cap will jump above $700 billion, an extraordinary level given that the number two public company, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), has a market cap of only $404 billion.
Apple’s current stock price is $120, against a 52-week high of $134.54. In the event Apple shares return to that level, its market cap will move up to $800 billion.
There are a very few catalysts that could push Apple back to its 52-week high. Most depend on forecasts of holiday sales of the iPhone 6 family. Many analysts believe that figure will be about 75 million worldwide. If the analyst consensus rises to between that and 80 million soon, the share price will rise too, perhaps sharply.
So far, sales of the iPhone 6s have outstripped expectations. Unit sales in the most recently reported quarter were 47.3 million. It was the initial quarter in which the iPhone 6s was available. In the holiday quarter, it will be available for the entire quarter. That was not so for the past quarter, because it went on sale September 25. Unit sales the first weekend were 13 million.
Wall Street analysts will try to ferret out sales via distribution networks. This will include the largest wireless carriers, particularly Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). These estimates will only cover the United States, and it can be argued that is no longer Apple’s most important country. That position has been, or will be soon, passed to China. In Apple’s most recently reported quarter, greater China revenue rose 99% to $12.5 billion, against Apple’s total for the period of $51.5 billion. Apple’s top management repeatedly have said that China sales are as critical a factor as any other.
Sales of the iPhone 6s in China could be telegraphed by its major partner in China. That is, China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), which is the largest wireless carrier in the world. Apple cannot be successful in China without very strong sales through the carrier. The Chinese market may be the most competitive in the world, with the presence of Apple’s archrival Samsung and local manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi.
A secondary factor to the success of iPhone 6s sales in the holiday quarter is whether consumers will wait for the iPhone 7.
The more hints of strong holiday sales there are, the more likely Apple’s market cap will push above $700 billion.