FORTUNE -- In the fall of 2000, when you could buy Apple (AAPL) for $7, the stock's value measured by how much profit it was generating for each outstanding share -- the famous PE ratio -- hit an all-time low of 5.76, according to Wolfram Alpha (see chart below).
On Friday morning, when the stock touched $385.10, Apple's value hit a new low. With $137.1 billion in cash and marketable securities as of December, Apple's PE ratio ex-cash hit 5.42.
That's almost certainly a modern record for a company of this size, profitability and growth rate.
Apple's PE ratio is more likely to go up than down next Tuesday when it reports its March quarter earnings. Although the company will have increased its cash holdings in the past three months, it's also expected to report earnings that are lower than the same quarter last year, which will reduce the E in P/E and increase the ratio.
Whether the stock price -- the P in P/E -- goes up or down next week is anybody's guess.
For the record, the average PE ratio of the 500 stocks that make up the S&P 500 is 17.82.
UPDATE: For another point of view -- which to my mind speaks volumes about the disconnect between today's securities markets and their ostensible purpose -- see the Wall Street Journal's Apple Shares Are Dirt Cheap; So What?
Below: The Wolfram Alpha chart.
Apple is the largest slice of the 500 and it's one of only three stocks whose P/E shrank
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL), Oracle (ORCL) and EMC (EMC).
Those are the only three companies in the S&P 500 whose price-to-earnings ratio did not grow over the past 90 days, according to a Seeking Alpha piece posted Monday by someone or something called Pendulum.
The other 497 companies have all seen their valuations increase to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 25, 2013 11:13 AM ET
In 2007 it was trading for nearly 50 times earnings. Today it's 10. What happened?
Perhaps the most succinct commentary on Leonid Kanopka's naive claim that Apple (AAPL) is a "bubble ready to burst" (see "A few fries short of a Happy Meal") was Nicu Mihalache's plaintive response: "Do you know what P/E is?"
The price-to-earnings ratio, as every trader knows, is the simplest way to gauge how the market values a company. A high P/E -- MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 2, 2011 8:28 AM ET
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