In Monday's trading session on Wall Street, Apple shares dropped 2.5 percent to $419.57, giving the company a market capitalization -- the total value of all available shares -- of $394 billion. Oil giant Exxon Mobile fell 0.5 percent to $88.95, but still managed to overtake Apple with a market cap of $400.5 billion.
Apple fell as low as $419 to establish a 52-week low before closing at its lowest level since Jan. 5, 2012, and the company's market cap sank lower than $400 billion for the first time since the same month, when the company's record-breaking holiday quarter at the end of 2011 first vaulted it to the title over Exxon. Apple then went on a wild ride that gave it the highest market cap of any U.S. company in history, without adjusting for inflation, as its stock price rose as high as $705.07.
Since hitting that peak on Sept. 21 -- the day the iPhone 5 was released in the United States -- shares have been in a nose-dive amid worries about Apple's production capabilities and doubts about its ability to continue to innovate beyond its current lineup of the iPhone and iPad. Apple's announcement of more record-breaking revenues in the 2012 holiday quarter were not enough to quell doubts, as the company's growth rate slowed, and Exxon overtook Apple for a day in January immediately following that earnings report.
Apple immediately regained its title in the next trading session and had retained it since, but another bout of weakness pushed the oil giant back in front Monday. From the end of trading on Friday, Feb. 22, through Monday, Apple has declined 6.9 percent amid an investor lawsuit that affected last week's annual shareholders meeting and a ruling Friday that nearly halved the gigantic patent-infringement judgment it won in a landmark San Jose court battle with Samsung.
Analysts still believe Apple will rebound, with 54 analysts tracked by MarketWatch offering an average price target of $619.14, and only one of those analysts putting a "Sell" or equivalent rating on the stock.
Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.