Apple first surpassed Exxon in market value in the summer of 2011, grabbing a title Exxon had held since 2005. The two traded places through that fall, until Apple surpassed Exxon in early 2012.
Not everyone on Wall Street thought the S&P milestone was worth celebrating. Some noted the stock market is more a reflection of how traders feel than a reflection of underlying fundamentals.
"It's not a landmark that we really follow or that we really care about," said Derrick Irwin, portfolio manager for Wells Fargo Advantage Funds. "Focusing on the benchmarks can end up shooting you in the foot, as we've seen."
Some of the rise may also be due to investing stock market momentum. A rule of thumb is that when a stock price or an overall index gets tantalizingly close to a milestone, as the S&P has been for days now, it's almost certain to cross that milestone, at least temporarily.
"Sure, it's a good thing," said Christian Bertelsen, chief investment officer of Global Financial Private Capital in Sarasota, Fla. "But I wouldn't read too much into it."
Still, Deutsche Bank analysts raised their year-end target for the index to 1,600 from 1,575.
Companies will be able to maintain their earnings even if lawmakers in Washington decide to implement wide-ranging spending cuts to narrow the budget deficit, the analysts said in a note sent to clients late Thursday.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, climbed 11 basis points to 1.95 percent.
Among other stocks making big moves.
— Halliburton gained $1.91 to $39.72 after posting a loss that was smaller than analysts had expected. The oilfield-services company said fourth-quarter profits declined 26 percent to $669 million on increasing pricing pressure in the North American market and one-time charges from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Wall Street had expected worse.
— Hasbro fell $1.14 to $37.31 after the toy maker said its fourth-quarter revenue failed to meet expectations because of poor demand over the holidays. The company plans to cut about 10 percent of its workforce and consolidate facilities to cut expenses.
— Green Mountain Coffee Roasters rose $2.53 to $46.31 after an analyst noted that sales of a competing coffee brewer introduced by Starbucks were getting off to a weak start.
AP Business Writer Christina Rexrode contributed to this report.