By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 10, 2010

Its market cap passes $200 billion as Wall Street suits up for the release of the iPad

Before the markets opened Tuesday, advised Apple (AAPL) investors to sell! sell! sell!

But Wall Street wasn’t buying it. When the dust settled and the markets closed that afternoon, Apple’s share price had climbed nearly 4 points to hit $223.02 — its third record high in as many trading days.

Apple, always a volatile stock, has had its ups and downs over the past five years (see chart). But it’s been on a tear for the past 12 months and it has soared more than 30 points since Feb. 4. That’s when the initial skepticism that greeted the Jan. 27 unveiling of the iPad seemed to run its course.

Now that rumors of production hiccups have settled and a launch date has been set, hardly a day goes by without another analyst weighing in on the iPad’s chances for success. Among Tuesday’s crop:

  • Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner, who believes Apple is still targeting a production run of 10 million iPads for the calendar year.
  • FBR Capital’s Craig Berger, who puts the production target at 5 million for the first half of 2010.
  • Barclay’s Ben Reitzes, who says the iPad is headed for BestBuy (BBY) and that the international roll-out will be faster than expected
  • Broadpoint AmTech’s Brian Marshall, who believes that the vast majority of the iPad naysayers haven’t had a chance to use the device (“we were hooked after the first 15 minutes,” he says). Marshall has upped his iPad sales estimates and raised his Apple price target, to $280 from $264.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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