Today: As shoppers rush stores to grab the newest devices, Apple (AAPL) shares hit their highest prices of 2013. Also: eBay (EBAY), Amazon shoot higher.

The Lead: Apple hits highest stock prices of 2013 amid hopes for 'iPad Christmas'

While Apple has remained the most valuable company in the world for most of 2013, it's been a tough year for the company on Wall Street. As the end of 2013 nears, however, the Cupertino tech giant appears to be finding favor with investors, who pushed its price to heights unseen since the first trading session of the year Friday.

Apple shares sold for as much as $558.33 and closed Friday's shortened trading session with a 1.9 percent gain at $556.07, representing intraday and closing highs for the year to date. The new highs arrived on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff for holiday shopping, and could signal that investors believe Apple will have its third consecutive record-breaking winter quarter.


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"Apple products should be the holiday gift of choice this year," ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall told USA Today. "The company has a great product cycle currently, the stock is cheap and we expect $600 within the next several months."

Other analysts seem to agree, with the average price target for Apple clocking in at $586.62, according to Marketwatch's average of 54 analysts covering Apple, with 43 of those analysts offering the equivalent of a "Buy" rating.

"Apple is best positioned in the tech world to benefit from this holiday season, starting with Black Friday," Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White, who has a $777 price target on Apple, told The Wall Street Journal.

Apple did not offer its traditional Black Friday discounts on purchases this year, instead giving customers gift cards for future Apple purchases. Other retailers did offer discounts on some products, however, and reported that they were sparking heavy interest from consumers: An eBay executive told CNBC that an iPad was selling every second on the San Jose company's marketplace as of midnight, and both Wal-Mart and Target reported that iPads were selling well at their retail outlets.

In addition, users who have already purchased Apple mobile products were relying on the devices to shop Friday. An IBM Benchmark study released Friday showed that iOS was driving 450 percent more online commerce than Android devices, and Apple users were making larger average purchases.

Apple has established record sales during the holiday shopping quarter each of the past two years, so it will take a monster three months of sales to increase revenues again this year; Apple expects to record revenues of $55 billion to $58 billion, which would top last year's $54.5 billion. Profits could be a different story, however, and if Apple posts lower earnings than last year's winter quarter, it would be the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year profit declines.

Apple's inability to show continuing earnings growth has been a major factor in its stock slump so far this year, but CEO Tim Cook has promised an "iPad Christmas," and the company launched new iPhones and new iPads in time to make his hopes for a strong holiday season a reality. Still the company faces challenges on price with a wave of inexpensive Android tablets hitting the market and Google (GOOG) rushing its cheap Moto G smartphone to market.

In other Apple news, the company said in a court filing that a monitor appointed by a judge in the e-books price-fixing case is charging too much for his services, including a surcharge the filing called "unprecedented in Apple's experience." Apple also disagreed with the amount of access the court-appointed monitor, Michael Bromwich, has requested and objected to meeting between Bromwich and the judge in the case, Philip Elmer-DeWitt reported.

SV150 market report: eBay, Amazon enjoy strong gains on Black Friday

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 dipped slightly thanks to weakness just ahead of the bell in Friday's short trading session, but tech stocks gains as the Nasdaq industrial average and SV150 clocked increases of 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

eBay enjoyed solid gains as investors bet on the e-commerce giants as early returns from online Black Friday shopping were positive. The San Jose e-tailer gained 2.5 percent to $50.52 as online sales followed the brick-and-mortar path and pushed into Thanksgiving Day: IBM Benchmark reported online sales increased nearly 20 percent on Thanksgiving Day this year from last year, and ChannelAdvisor reported that eBay's sales grew 26.2 percent from Thanksgiving 2012. Black Friday started off even better for eBay, with sales increasing nearly 35 percent in the early going, ChannelAdvisor reported, suggesting that shortages of popular items like the next-generation consoles and certain toys could be pushing traffic to eBay's resellers. Rival Amazon.com also had a strong Black Friday on Wall Street, hitting record highs and gaining 1.8 percent to $393.62.

Facebook gained 1.1 percent to $47.01 as its Instagram photo-sharing service set a usage record for the second consecutive Thanksgiving, though the San Francisco company did not provide as much detail as it did in 2012. Social-media rival Twitter also enjoyed gains on Friday, increasing 1.6 percent to $41.57 after Wunderlich Securities analyst Blake Harper predicted "a record number of shopping-related tweets" for the service on Black Friday and broke down some of its attempts to amplify advertising related to television.

Headed the other way was Sunnyvale security company Fortinet, which announced after the bell on Wednesday that its chief financial officer is departing. Fortinet suffered the largest percentage loss on the SV150 Friday, dropping 12.9 percent to $17.10 as analysts lamented the loss of Fortinet CFO Ahmed Rubaie, whom Raymond James analyst Michael Turits noted "was well-liked by the Street from his prior stint at Ariba and was seen as a strong hire for Fortinet."

Up: SolarCity, eBay, Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, Twitter, Facebook,

Down: Thoratec, Fortinet, Yelp, Google, Intuitive Surgical, SunPower

The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Up 7.13, or 0.5 percent, to 1,440.09

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Up 15.14, or 0.37 percent, to 4,059.89

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 10.92, or 0.07 percent, to 16,086.41

And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 1.42, or 0.08 percent, to 1,805.81

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.