Apple Dow JonesApple Inc., the first U.S. company to be valued at more than $700 billion, has finally joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The electronics giant started trading as a member of the index on March 19, the day after Visa Inc.’s four-to-one stock split took effect. The iPhone and iPad maker replaced AT&T Inc., which had been on the blue-chip index since 1916.

After accounting for Visa’s recent stock split, Apple’s stock had the fifth-highest weighting in the index, behind Goldman Sachs Group Inc., 3M Co., IBM Corp. and Boeing Co.

Apple closed at $124.24 a share on Thursday (March 26).

The 119-year-old Dow index is a closely watched group of 30 blue-chip stocks widely viewed as a barometer for the health of U.S. markets. The most influential company on the Dow is Goldman Sachs, the top-priced stock on the list.

Prior to welcoming Apple, the Dow said it had avoided the tech giant because its stock price before its seven-for-one split last summer was too high – about $650 a share. Because the index is a weighted average, Dow officials feared Apple would distort the Dow’s value.

Apple gained a spot on the list because of Visa’s split. Visa’s stock accounted for 9 percent of the Dow until recently when the credit card company gave its shareholders three more shares for every share they owned. The move dropped the price of Visa’s shares significantly, creating room for Apple.

Apple’s presence on the Dow raised hopes that Apple’s impressive earnings growth will strengthen the index. The Cupertino, Calif.-based behemoth posted record profits in its most recent quarter and, had its numbers been included in the index, the Dow would have grown. Instead, with AT&T still on the list, it shrunk 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Although the index is projected to decline in the first nine months of this year because of weakened oil companies Exxon Mobile Corp. and Chevron Corp., Apple’s inclusion in the Dow will likely cushion the fall.

The Dow is expected to drop 3.1 percent in 2015, significantly less than the 6.5 percent forecasted if Apple wasn’t part of the average.

However, even with Apple part of the Dow, earnings for the blue-chip index are expected to once again trial those of the S&P 500, which is looking at 2.1 percent boost in 2015.

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