Apple's Very Serious Market Cap Conundrum, Lessons of the Past and Present (AAPL, GE, XOM, MSFT, CSCO, PG)

Steve Jobs holding a Mac Book Air
Steve Jobs holding a Mac Book Air

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) may have been the greatest growth story over the past decade, but the woes and losses coming into play now are bring up some serious issues. We just showed that Apple has $60 to $75 worth of dead air in its share price if it cannot hold up above $500 in the coming days. Now we have Nomura joining in on the Apple cuts, with that firm lowering the price target to $530 from $660 due to weak iPhone 5 trends. The one issue that no one wants to address is the market cap issue.

Apple already became the largest company by market capitalization, but it seems as though these analysts and market pundits who still want to endorse the bullish case only ignore the billions and billions of dollars here.

If you just use the $472 billion market cap as of this morning, with shares under the $500 mark, the billions of dollars being ignored are astronomical. Investors need to realize that for Apple just to reach its all-time high again from 2012, the stock would now have to rally by more than 42%. No problem, because Apple rallied that much before and in short order, right? Consider this: that is now $200 billion in market value. Theoretically that implies that investors would have to pour a net inflow of $200 billion into Apple shares rather than any of the other stocks or indexes.

Now investors have to consider that $200 billion in comparable terms, as to just what it means compared to great Dow Jones Industrial Average components. General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) is worth some $221 billion and Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) is worth some $190 billion in market cap as of now. For Apple to just reach its old high, the market has to pour enough money back into Apple shares that would recreate the equivalent of a company that is worth something between GE and P&G. That is some serious cash.

Another issue at stake is that Apple's $472 billion market value is now getting closer and closer to being back in the number two spot of U.S. market capitalization rates. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is worth about $407 billion today. If Exxon shares rise back to a 52-week high, or if they hit the consensus analyst price target, then its market cap will be north of $427 billion. So what if that dead air in Apple's share price gets taken out? If Apple loses that $60 to $75 that its chart indicates is possible, then Apple's loss of market value could be another $55 billion to $70 billion. If both scenarios come true, the Exxon Mobil Corp. would again have the largest market capitalization. You could argue a one-in-four or one-in-three case that Apple will soon no longer be the most valuable company in the world again.

What about history and the tech bubble? What you are seeing is almost no different from what you saw in certain aspects of the technology bubble bursting in 2000. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) both come to mind. The difference between the two cases is that Cisco Systems almost certainly will not see its all-time high of just over $78 on a split-adjusted basis again. It would require almost a 300% rally in the stock price, and that is with Cisco's market valuation of $110 billion today.

The lessons of Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) may rule the roost here. Microsoft is worth $228 billion in market cap, and that is with shares not performing well at all. It was recently featured as the one DJIA component with the most implied upside for 2013. Microsoft may be deemed irrelevant by many of the younger tech buyers, but Apple would have basically recreate another Microsoft as far as market valuation just to get back to its all-time highs.

Anything is possible here. There is not a 100% certainty that Apple is going to keep falling apart. What you are seeing is a classical case of the easy money already having been made. Stocks rise and stocks fall, even the great Apple. Sometimes companies keep growing in real-world relevance and in sales, but that does not assure that their stocks continue to rise in value indefinitely.

Apple's biggest issue now for investors is the number of billions of dollars at stake. Now compare all of these billions of dollars to what is expected by analysts this year. Thomson Reuters has a consensus of $191 billion in this year's sales expectations. Effectively, investors will have to spend the same amount of money to run up Apple's stock to get back above $700 per share as the entire Apple consumer base will spend on Apple products and services this year.

We have not even considered in too much detail what this means to the PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ: QQQ) and other key exchange-traded funds. The QQQ ETF has a current market value of some $33 billion according to the PowerShares website. Apple's stock accounts for 15% of that ETF and that means that Apple has 15% more value than what would be the combined QQQ weighting of Microsoft and Google together as one. This may seem small compared to the billions at stake in Apple's market cap alone, but this is still billions and billions of dollars at stake.

24/7 Wall St. wanted to show this critical issue to show just what we are talking about. Maybe the $200 billion or so that keeps getting referenced here doesn't sound like much when most of the public cannot even grasp what exactly $16.45 trillion as of January 15, 2013 means. To those who do worry about the raw math, this is some serious capital at stake.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Accounting, Active Trader, Consumer Electronics, Consumer Goods, Consumer Product, Corporate Governance, Cult Stock, Technology Companies Tagged: AAPL, CSCO, GE, MSFT, PG, XOM

Originally published