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Apple shares hit $600 ahead of new iPad release

Apple analysts and investors have big hopes for sales of the new iPad as stock climbs to a historic high.

Shares of Apple reached a record of $600 briefly today as the market anticipated strong sales of the new iPad, which will be available beginning tomorrow.

Shares rose 1.8 percent to reach $600 early this morning but then retreated and closed at $585, giving the company a market valuation of more than $550 billion. This historic move comes one month after Apple stock hit $500. Shares were at $403 the day before Christmas and have been rising steadily for the past three years.

A handful of analysts increased their estimates on Apple's share price this week, citing the company's dominance in the tablet market, along with strength in the smartphone market and growth in desktops and laptops. For example, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster raised his price target on Apple shares to $718 from $670 and now expects the stock to climb above $700.

Fueled by record sales of the iPhone, Apple posted its biggest quarter ever last quarter--earnings of $46.33 billion and profits of $13.06 billion.