With its record close Friday, it’s now the 4th largest publicly traded U.S. company

Source: Wolfram Alpha

When its shares closed at $218.95 Friday, Apple AAPL became one of the five biggest U.S. companies by market capitalization, right below Wal-Mart WMT and above Berkshire Hathaway brk.a . (See chart at right.)

In the horse race most tech handicappers care about, however, Apple vs. Microsoft, the company has another $50 billion and change to go. Apple would have to hit $276 a share for its market cap to get past what Microsoft’s MSFT is today.

But Apple is closing in. Below the fold: a fever chart of the last five years.

Market capitalization, log scale. Source: Wolfram Alpha

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]