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AAPL stock continues rebound, boosted by Mac¿s growing market share

Over the past month investors have reconsidered the selloff in Apple stock that took place in January and February, when AAPL fell nearly $80 from a close of $198.08 on Dec. 31 to $119.15 on Feb. 26.

Helped along by a 228-point rally on Wall Street today, AAPL picked up another $6.55 to close at $161.04, its first close over $160 since Jan. 18.

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Concerns earlier this year about slowing iPhone and iPod sales spooked some investors into selling AAPL, but those investors forgot about the Mac. Even back in January when the stock was getting pummeled, both Apple and several of the analysts who follow the company predicted continuing growth in Mac sales.

Sure enough, when research firms Gartner and IDC released their first-quarter reports on PC market share, the Mac's stellar showing stole the spotlight.

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Gartner says Mac shipments increased 32.5 percent, from 762,000 to 1 million units, compared to the same quarter a year ago. According to Gartner Apple snared 6.6 percent of the U.S. PC market compared to 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2007.

Compared with Gartner's 2006 numbers, the Mac's growth trend is even more dramatic. Apple had 4 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2006. Mac unit shipments are up 440,000 from the same period of 2006, a 77 percent increase.

Meanwhile IDC's data shows Apple with a 6 percent share of the U.S. market in the first quarter, compared to 4.9 percent in 1Q 2007, with unit shipments growing 25.1 percent to 950,000.

It should be noted that Apple's relative market share changes seasonally. For instance, back in the third quarter of 2007 Gartner reported Apple with 8.1 percent of the U.S. market. But the year-over year increase in units shipped grew at a similar pace, 37.2 percent.

The one consistent element to every research report on the PC market I've seen in the past year is that the number of Macs shipped keeps increasing year over year, as does its market share.

When Apple reports its first quarter earnings this coming Wednesday, we'll find out the truth about iPod and iPhone sales (I suspect the concerns of January will prove unwarranted), and we should get confirmation on the Mac's soaring numbers.

If it turns out Apple's core businesses with the Mac, iPhone and Pod continued to do well despite reduced consumer spending and recession worries, expect to see AAPL continue its climb upward.

Jason Schwartz predicted today in a post on the Seeking Alpha site that AAPL could hit $300 in 2009 on Mac sales alone, but gives plenty of reasons why he thinks the company's other businesses will thrive as well.

While $300 a share might sound crazy, Apple has a long history of transforming the improbable into reality. It wouldn't surprise me.

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