Apple Again Top-Performing Dow Stock, but Merck Is Closing In

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) returned last week as the Dow Jones industrial average’s best stock for the year to date for the third consecutive time. Even though the company’s shares dropped about 1.3% last week, the world’s most valuable company has still managed to post a year-to-date share price gain of 29.6%.

The second-best performer among the Dow index equities so far this year is Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK), which is up 28.6%. That is followed by Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), up 27%, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), up 22.9%, and Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), up 22.9%. Of the 30 Dow stocks, 16 have managed either to post a gain to date in 2018.

The blue-chip index added about 104 points last week to close at 25,444.34, up about 0.7% compared to the previous Friday’s close. For the year to date, the index is up 2.5%, trailing both the S&P 500 (up 2.6%) and the Nasdaq Composite (up 6.3%).

The tech sector’s year-to-date gain lost nearly two points last week, shaving the sector’s gain for the year from 12.8% in the prior week to 11.1%.

On Thursday the company announced an “October Event” that most Apple followers believe will include new product upgrades for the company’s other hardware products like MacPro and iPad that did not get any mention when the new iPhones were announced last month. The event is scheduled for October 30.

On Friday, CEO Tim Cook called on Bloomberg News to retract a report claiming that servers and PCs built by Supermicro for Apple, Amazon and nearly every other computer maker contained a stealth chip that allowed unauthorized access to the server or PC and ultimately the entire network of which that machine was a part. Apple and Amazon, among others, denied the allegation at the time Bloomberg ran the story, but the news outlet has so far stuck by its reporting.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Cook took the unusual step of demanding a full retraction: “There is no truth in their story about Apple. They need to do that right thing and retract it.”

Cook added:

I was involved in our response to this story from the beginning. … We turned the company upside down. Email searches, data center records, financial records, shipment records. We really forensically whipped through the company to dig very deep and each time we came back to the same conclusion: This did not happen. There’s no truth to this.

Also on Friday, Apple began taking orders for the iPhone Xr, the lower-priced phone the company launched last month.

Apple shares closed Friday at $219.31, up about 1.5% for the day, in a 52-week range of $150.24 to $233.47. The consensus price target is $238.93, and Apple’s forward price-to-earnings ratio is 15.96.