Exxon Mobil LogoThe market capitalization of Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) may pass that of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) today, or, if not, relatively soon.

Apple's stock fell 11% after its reported lackluster earnings and disappointing iPhone sales, and issued a weak forecast. The 11% drop put Apple's market cap at $430 billion. Exxon's is $415 billion. A 4% increase in Exxon's figure, or a small slip beyond the 11% in Apple's, is all that is needed to make up the difference.

Exxon's stock has taken an entirely different direction than Apple's, and is up almost 15% over the past year. A new 11% dip in Apple's share would put its performance barely on par with that of the S&P 500 over the same period.

On their face, Apple's numbers were strong. It announced record quarterly revenue of $54.5 billion and record quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion, or $13.81 per diluted share. The figures compared to revenue of $46.3 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion, or $13.87 per diluted share. But the revenue was considered light, and iPhone sales disappointed despite impressive numbers. Apple sold a record 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter, compared to 37 million in the same quarter a year ago.

Near-term, Apple may find that a number of analysts cut their forecasts for iPhone growth in the current quarter, as they worry about the market share taken by arch-rival Samsung. Some of these analysts may cut their share price targets and earnings forecasts as well.

Exxon's stock price may be buoyed by several factors that could move up crude prices. Among them is a record demand for oil in China. Research firm Platts reported that the demand for crude rose 7.7% to 10.58 million barrels a day in December. Crude also could move higher as North Korea said it would target the United States with its next long-range missile, and as unrest in Africa's energy producing nations increases. Crude rose 0.4% to $95.42 on the North Korea news.

Apple's share price over the next few days will rely largely on who wins the debate over whether its future as a growth stock has ended. If the majority case is that it has, Apple's shares have further to fall.


Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Earnings Tagged: AAPL, featured, XOM

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