NEW YORK (AP) -- Investors are wondering what is in store for Apple Inc. after shares of the world's most valuable public company closed down 4 percent on Monday, their fifth straight drop. But analysts remain upbeat on the iPhone and iPad maker's shares, encouraging investors to buy the stock after its decline.
The Cupertino, Calif., company has lost $50 billion of its market capitalization over the past five days and was worth about $541 billion on Tuesday — still well ahead of Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's second-most valuable company, at $395 billion.
The stock slide comes after a rally that had driven Apple's shares up nearly 60 percent in 2012, driving its market cap to $600 billion. Only one other public company, Microsoft Corp., has been worth that much. Shares peaked at $644 on April 10.
Before the market opened Tuesday, Apple stock dipped $2.68, or less than 1 percent, to $577.45.
The drop in stock price and market cap is a cause for concern for the stock market. Not only is Apple a bellwether for the technology industry, it is also the biggest stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 index and the largest on the Nasdaq Composite index. Its decline weighs on broader stock measures.
The drop in the company's shares comes about two weeks after an analyst set a $1,001 price target on Apple's shares, the highest yet. That implies a company value of $933 billion, well above what any company has ever been worth. But since that price target was set by Topeka Capital Markets' Brian White on April 2, shares of the maker of iPads and iPhones have dropped 6.2 percent.
One cloud hovering over the tech giant this month is the U.S. government's accusations that it conspired with major book publishers to raise the price of e-books. Apple denied that accusation on Friday.
Many market watchers wonder if Apple's stock may just be coming back down to earth. The company's shares have risen 77 percent over the past year and are still up 43 percent in 2012. Apple's stock price ascent this year has been fueled by blowout sales of iPhones and iPads in the holiday quarter, plus the announcement that the company will start paying a dividend this summer and buy back shares. That's a way to reward shareholders by tapping Apple's $97.6 billion cash hoard.
Sterne Agee & Leach's Shaw Wu maintained a "Buy" rating and $750 price target for Apple, saying that the company remains a top pick and that investors should take advantage of the recent stock price decline.
Baird's William Power echoed that, reiterating his "Outperform" rating and $700 price target on the company's shares.