The Wall Street Journal's SmartMoney.com is reporting that since Apple is now the country's third-largest company in terms of stock market value and the #1 (Exxon-Mobil) and #2 (Microsoft) companies are seeing declines in their value, Apple could very well end up being the company with the highest valuation by year-end.
As the article points out, stock market value isn't always the best indicator of a company's size or economic value. In terms of sales, Apple ranks a paltry #42, which is even lower than Dell at #38. On the other hand, Apple is able to convert 29 cents of each sales dollar into operating profit, while Dell sees only 5 cents on each dollar.
Whatever the standard for valuation or "size" of a company may be, it's clear that Apple has made an incredible journey since the bleak days of 1997.