- Associated Press - Monday, April 2, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - A Wall Street analyst on Monday set the highest price target yet for Apple Inc. shares, valuing them at $1,001 each, or about 62 percent more than their current price.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White said the Cupertino, Calif., company’s current stock price does not reflect its rapid growth in recent years, nor its future growth prospects.

He based his price target on his estimate for Apple’s calendar-year 2013 earnings, multiplied by 17. He notes that Apple shares carried an earnings multiple in the mid-20s from 2006 to 2010.

Wall Street analysts called the company undervalued for much of last year, but the stock has risen to match some earlier estimates. It’s up 79 percent over the past 12 months.

Apple shares rose $19.08, or 3.2 percent, to close at $618.63 on Monday.

The average Apple price target of 39 analysts polled by FactSet is $678. Analyst Tavis McCourt at Morgan Keegan, set a target of $800 two weeks ago.

Apple is already the world’s most valuable public company, with a market capitalization of $574 billion. A price of $1,001 per share implies a company value of $935 billion, well above what any company has ever been worth.

The 52 percent rise in the stock price this year has been fueled by blowout sales of iPhones and iPads in the holiday quarter, plus the announcement that Apple will start paying a dividend this summer and buy back shares. That’s a way to reward shareholders by tapping Apple’s $97.6 billion cash hoard.

White believes Apple will expand its reach this year by starting to sell the iPhone through China Mobile, that country’s largest phone company, and by launching a TV set. Apple hasn’t confirmed either piece of speculation.

“Apple fever is spreading like a wildfire around the world. We see no end in sight to this trend, especially given the company’s low market share in the mobile phone and computing markets,” White wrote.

White is firing up coverage of Apple at his new employer, New York-based Topeka Capital Markets. He previously worked for Ticonderoga Securities, which folded in January.

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