It's good to be Apple. Really good. As of this week, in fact, $700 billion worth of good. Apple's closing price of $122.02 per share on Tuesday made it the first American company ever to cross that market-cap threshold.
Apple is also now selling bonds in Switzerland, which is probably a smart way for the company to buffer its ginormous pile of cash. (As The Wall Street Journal points out, this means Apple can use proceeds from debt sales to reinvest in itself without getting taxed the way it would if it used money brought back from overseas.)
Plus, global interest rates are so low that selling bonds is a pretty cheap way to raise money. And boy does Apple have a lot of money—a staggering $178 billion in cash on hand. (That's more than double Bill Gates's net worth, and he's the richest man in the world.)
Apple has the financial influence of a not-even-that-small country at this point. The company's $178 billion—$178 billion!—puts it on par with the gross domestic product of a country like New Zealand, surpassing the GDPs of Vietnam, Morocco, and Ecuador, according to the most recent World Bank data.
If Apple were a country, it'd be the 55th richest country in the world.
These sort of comparisons help underscore just how much money Apple has, but they're not entirely nuanced. For instance, although Apple has made history with its earnings, there have been countries just as rich—and richer—once you adjust for inflation. In that case, Apple still hasn't hit Microsoft's high-water mark in 1999. (Microsoft was worth $620 billion then; which would exceed $870 billion in today's dollars.) But what does that tell us, really, other than how quickly tech fortunes can change? After all, Apple today is worth more than twice as much as Microsoft ($349 billion). In 1999, though, Apple was perhaps notable for making colorful iMacs that dotted high-school computer labs, but not much else.
No modern tech company has approached the value of trading companies of the 1700s, though, and the Dutch East India Company trumps them all. The shipping juggernaut was the world's first publicly traded company. At its height, according to several estimates, it was worth the equivalent of more than $7 trillion in 2015 dollars. That's a seven with 12 zeros after it—or Apple's valuation today 10 times over.