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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Apple is on track to become the first trillion dollar company in the world, with a $920 billion market cap and a cash pile of billions after $100 billion in expected stock buybacks.

The big picture: Warren Buffett thinks Apple is the best investment, including for Apple itself, and he recently upped his stake in the company to nearly 5%. Charles Munger, his business partner, backed him up, saying, "I think we've been a little too restrained ... I wish we owned more of it."

The competition: Right behind Apple are Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet, Google's parent company — all of which have market caps of over three quarters of a trillion dollars.

  • "Apple can reach the [trillion dollar market cap] milestone before the end of this week if last week’s momentum persists," Bloomberg's Elena Popina notes.

And, as tech rivalries intensify, there's a growing divide between old tech giants like Apple and Microsoft, which develop consumer products, and the new kids on the block — Facebook, Twitter, Snap and even Google — that rely on ad dollars.

  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella alluded to that divide in an interview with The Verge, saying, "you’ve got to recognize that privacy is a human right and that you need to treat it as such."
  • And Apple's Tim Cook did the same, saying, "We're not going to traffic in your personal life. Privacy to us is a human right, a civil liberty."

Yes, but: Apple (iPhone slowdowns and falling victim to Intel's chip vulnerability) and Amazon (sheer size and rapid growth that draw attention from antitrust watchers) are not immune to the Big Tech backlash, Axios' Kim Hart notes.

Be smart: Apple's stock surge — coming off rave reviews from Buffett — could propel it to the one trillion mark by the end of the week, but its stock price has rallied to all-time highs before, only to come back down to Earth.

  • And Apple may be dealing with a saturated smartphone market, and it's not yet clear what the tech giant will do to move beyond the iPhone.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.