The incredible run of Apple Inc. stock (NASDAQ: AAPL), a major force in the technology sector, has been well-documented, along with most of the company’s history, ground-breaking product by ground-breaking product. It’s sometimes an interesting exercise for investors to hypothetically look back and consider the question of, “If I had invested $100 several years ago in stock ‘X’, that investment would now be worth…”. In the case of Apple, a mere $100 investment in the company’s stock at the beginning of 2002 would now, in early 2016, have grown to a sum of more than $5,000, or more than 50 times the original investment.

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A Gradual Ascent to Prominence and Profits

The closing share price quoted for January 2, 2002, the first trading day of the year, was $23.30. Therefore, rounding to the nearest whole share, a $100 investment would have secured four shares of Apple stock. (All Apple stock price quotes in this article are outright prices, not prices adjusted for dividends and splits. The effect of stock splits is noted and calculated into the total result, however the effect of dividends, which would slightly enhance the value of the investment, is not reflected in this review.)

It’s easy to view Apple as a monumental success story now, but the truth of the matter is that the beginning of this investment adventure did not start out too well. By the end of 2002, the stock price had declined to $14.33 a share, which represented approximately a 40% loss in the hypothetical $100 stock purchase made at the first of the year. However, the next couple of years were refreshingly lucrative for investors in Apple as the company continued to advance in the marketplace with more and more advanced versions of its popular iPod, and opened the iTunes store in 2003. By the end of 2004, Apple’s stock price had climbed to $64.40 per share, making an original four share investment worth $257.60.

A Stock Split and Continuing Climb

In February 2005, Apple initiated a two for one stock split, which would have transformed the original four share investment into a total of eight shares. In 2006, Apple debuted the MacBook Pro, the second Apple desktop computer product with Intel’s core duo processor, and in 2007 it followed up with the launch of the now famous iPhone, revolutionizing the cell phone industry. The iPhone 3G followed in 2008, and in 2010 the iPhone 4 was introduced, along with another soon to be wildly successful product, the iPad.

As to the stock’s performance during this period, the closing price at the end of 2005 was $71.89, giving a total eight-share value of $575.12. Two years later, the 2007 closing price was $198.08, making the hypothetical investment worth $1,584.64. The stock suffered approximately a 50% downside retracement in 2008, closing out the year at $85.35 a share. However, in 2009 Apple stock resumed its long term uptrend, and closed out 2010 at $322.56 a share, which, multiplied by eight shares, equals $2,580.48. It might have been tempting for an investor to sell at that point, having made over 25 times their original investment, but in fact that would have proved a short-sighted mistake, as there was more good fortune yet to come for Apple shareholders.

Another Split and A Steeper Uptrend

Apple’s status as leading firm in the technology sector was only enhanced and solidified between the years 2011 and 2016 as the company regularly introduced new and improved versions of the iPhone and the iPad, unveiled the Apple Watch, and as the number of iTunes subscribers soared to 800 million.

Apple stock enjoyed an overall increasingly steep uptrend from the beginning of 2010 into 2015. During this period of time, the stock only suffered one major downside correction, which extended from late 2012 through mid-2013, and saw the stock price retrace from $702.10 down to $390.53 a share. Following that corrective retracement, the stock resumed an even sharper uptrend, one that lasted into the first half of 2015.

During this time period, in June 2014 Apple did a seven for one stock split, so at that time eight shares would have become 56 shares, which sold for $93.70 per share immediately following the split, making the hypothetical investment then worth $5,247.20. When the stock price hit its 2015 high closing price of $133.00 a share, 56 shares were worth $7,448.

Subsequent price action has seen Apple stock in another downside correction, and as of late February 2016, the company’s stock is trading at $96.76 a share. Multiplied by 56 shares, the total value is $5,418.56. That’s not a bad return on a $100 investment.

Comparatively, a $100 investment in the S&P 500 Index stocks made at the beginning of 2002 would now be worth $168.20, quite a bit less, to say the least.

How Does Apple Stock Look Now?

Going forward, Apple is still a leading technology firm, despite the departure of Steve Jobs, and in all likelihood will continue to outperform in the sector. As of late February 2016, Apple has a market cap value of $517.09 billion, and $38.3 billion in cash. Apple’s price/earnings ratio (P/E) of just 10.51 is extremely modest compared to an inflated industry average of 40.6. The company’s three-year average revenue growth of 14.3% is nearly triple the industry average 5.6%. It enjoys comfortable operating and net margins of 30.3% and 22.9% respectively, both well above the industry averages. Apple’s return on assets (ROA) and return on equity (ROE) figures are also substantially above average.

While it certainly would have been, in hindsight, wonderful to acquire Apple stock for just a little over $20 a share, that doesn’t mean that the stock isn’t now also worth buying at a little under $100 a share. Apple’s financials look strong across the board, and the company has more than established its ability to introduce quality products and win in the marketplace. The median analyst price target for 2016 is $132 a share, well above the late June 2016 trading price just below $94 a share. Therefore, investors may do well to consider buying Apple for future returns on investment.

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