Apple shares on Tuesday closed at their highest ever level as investors looked ahead to next month's iPhone 6 launch.
The Cupertino, Calif., tech company's shares ended at $100.53, up 1.4 percent for the day, and the highest closing level ever when adjusted for June's 7-for-1 stock split. Apple's previous high closing price of $702.10, or $100.30 adjusted for the split, came September 19, 2012 -- two days before the iPhone 5 went on sale.
Apple shares on Tuesday also neared their all-time high in regular trading. The stock hit its previous intraday high of $705.07, or $100.72 when adjusted for the stock split, on Sept. 21, 2012, the first day the iPhone 5 hit stores. Shares rose as high as $100.68 in midday trading Tuesday.
The high comes less than a month before Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 6 on September 9. The smartphone, which contributes to more than half of Apple's total revenue, serves as the lynchpin to its overall growth, particularly as the market awaits the widely speculated iWatch and as the iPad struggles against lower-cost rivals and larger phones. Apple shares have tended to climb ahead of product launches as investors hope to get ahead of big sales numbers.
Apple shares had slid from their high in 2012 on worries that Apple CEO Tim Cook wouldn't be as successful as co-founder Steve Job at developing new blockbuster devices. Cook has promised several times over the past year that Apple would enter "exciting new product categories" in 2014. And in May, Eddy Cue, head of iTunes and the man behind Apple's $3 billion acquisition of headphone and streaming service Beats, upped the pressure by boasting that the consumer electronics giant is working on its "best product pipeline in 25 years."
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty earlier Tuesday recommended that her clients buy more Apple shares ahead of the iPhone 6 and iWatch product releases.
"Apple shares do not price in upcoming hardware, software, and services innovation," Huberty said. She noted that the new iPhone should gain market share and reaccelerate sales, while the iWatch -- which Apple so far hasn't acknowledged -- is "an underappreciated market opportunity with the potential for up to 60 [million] shipments in the first year."
Many market watchers expect Apple in September to introduce two new iPhone 6 models with display sizes of 4.7 and 5.5 inches, though some recent reports speculate one device could be released at a later date. Apple has asked manufacturing partners to produce about 30 percent to 40 percent more iPhones by the end of this year than it ordered for its initial run of last year's iPhone 5S and 5C, reports have said. Most analysts expect an iWatch to hit the market later than the iPhone 6.
Apple in April said it planned to give investors six additional shares of stock for every Apple share they owned as of June 2. Because of the split, shares now trade at a much lower level than in the past, but it also makes the stock more accessible to investors. It's much cheaper to own a chunk of Apple at about $100 versus $600. The split went into effect in June, with shares trading at about $93.
The stock split came as part of Apple's effort to meet the demands of current shareholders, as well as attract a new group of investors. Under the leadership of Cook, Apple started returning some of its massive cash hoard to investors. Shareholders, such as activist Carl Icahn, asked for even more, and Apple earlier this year revealed a big increase to its dividend and share repurchase program, along with the stock split. The company at that time boosted the amount of cash that it's returning to shareholders by about $30 billion to more than $130 billion.