A Day For Market Milestones

Google’s meteoric rise took a historic turn Tuesday when it replaced Johnson & Johnson as the 10th most highly valued company in the U.S. just three years after going public.

Google’s shares ended the day at $615.19, giving it a market capitalization of $192.02 billion, about $260 million more than J&J. And if analysts are right, Google will keep climbing the list. Lehman Bros. became the latest firm to up its price target for Google on Tuesday, setting a $714 target on belief in the company’s core business and mobile prospects.

Google could easily pass $197.8 billion Chevron or $201.5 billion Cisco Systems soon, but it remains a long way from Exxon Mobil’s $503 billion market cap atop the list.

Google’s strong growth is the reason for its stock valuation. It trades at 14 times sales and 50 times earnings, but is expected to grow revenues 58% this year and 37% next year, according to Thomson Financial. J&J is valued at three times revenues and 18 times earnings, a reflection of its slower 13% growth rate.

If Google were ranked based on its sales only, it would be the 203rd biggest company in the U.S., according to Howard Silverblatt at Standard & Poors.

The S&P 500 adjusts for float, and because of Google’s high level of insider holdings, it is ranked only 18th on that index, said Silverblatt.

Tuesday also marked the fifth anniversary of the current bull market, and the Dow and S&P celebrated with new all-time highs after Federal Reserve meeting minutes showed that there was no dissent when the Fed cut interest rates last month, raising hopes for another cut later this month. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, crossed 2800 for the first time since early 2001 on the news.

VMware was another milestone, crossing $100 for the first time just two months after its IPO, ending the day up 6.9% to $101.60.

Microchip Technology weighed on the chip sector, however, losing 12.7% to $31.98 after warning of lower than expected revenues, sending the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index to a 1% loss on the day.

Sprint Nextel slipped 1.2% on news of the departure of chairman and CEO Gary Forsee.

The Nasdaq gained 16 to 2804, the S&P rose 12 to 1565, and the Dow surged 120 to 14,164. Volume rose to 2.9 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.91 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led by a 23-10 margin on the NYSE, and 17-12 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 75% on the NYSE, and 63% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 209-62 on the NYSE, and 223-62 on the Nasdaq.

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