How high can a stock price go? In theory, as high as anyone can count. There’s literally no limit on how far a stock can rise, and a stock’s ongoing success is determined by the performance of its business. In general, a high stock price indicates a business has been successful, though it’s no guarantee that it has been.
Below are 10 of the most expensive stocks — those with the highest share prices — that investors can buy and why a stock price actually doesn’t tell you much at all.
What are the top 10 highest-priced stocks?
The list below includes the stock prices of companies included in the Russell 1000 index, which numbers about 1,000 of the most valuable firms trading on U.S. stock exchanges. (Don’t get it confused with the Russell 2000 index, which tracks some of the smallest companies.)
Note: Stock prices and market capitalizations are as of the August 18, 2021 close.
1. Berkshire Hathaway Series A (BRK-A)
Berkshire Hathaway offers the granddaddy of stock prices run by the granddaddy of investors, the legendary Warren Buffett. This conglomerate owns stakes in a number of businesses, including insurance, railroads and utilities. It also has an enormous portfolio of stocks. If you don’t have nearly a half-million dollars to buy an A share, you can still pick up B shares at a much lower price.
Stock price: $430,651
Market cap: $647 billion
2. NVR (NVR)
NVR is a homebuilder based in the Washington, DC area, and it operates the Ryan Homes, NV Homes and Heartland Homes brands.
Stock price: $5,101
Market cap: $18.2 billion
3. Seaboard (SEB)
Seaboard is an agribusiness and transportation company based in the Kansas City area. It produces and sells pork products, sugar, alcohol, corn and other agricultural products.
Stock price: $4,054
Market cap: $4.7 billion
4. Amazon.com (AMZN)
Amazon runs its well-known e-commerce business that seems to offer everything. But it also operates Amazon Web Services, or AWS, a huge provider of cloud and computing services, among other businesses.
Stock price: $3,201
Market cap: $1.62 trillion
5. Alphabet Series Series C (GOOG)
Alphabet is known for its largest company Google, the search engine giant, but it’s also growing a number of other companies within, including Waymo, a company focused on self-driving cars. Alphabet has two publicly traded series of stock, and both hit this top 10 list.
Stock price: $2,731
Market cap: $1.82 trillion
6. Alphabet Series Series A (GOOGL)
The Series A Alphabet stock has a price that’s right around its Series C cousin.
Stock price: $2,709
Market cap: $1.82 trillion
7. Booking Holdings (BKNG)
Booking Holdings is the company behind travel websites Booking.com and Priceline as well as OpenTable for restaurant reservations.
Stock price: $2,086
Market cap: $85.7 billion
8. Cable One (CABO)
Based in Phoenix, Cable One is a provider of voice, video and internet services to individuals and businesses.
Stock price: $1,996
Market cap: $12.1 billion
9. Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG)
Chipotle is known for its fast casual Mexican restaurants of the same name. Based in Newport Beach, California, the company operates several thousand locations in the U.S. and a handful internationally.
Stock price: $1,851
Market cap: $52.0 billion
10. Autozone (AZO)
Autozone is known for its chain of retail stores under the same name, where it sells automotive replacement parts and accessories.
Stock price: $1,614
Market cap: $34.8 billion
The stock price doesn’t tell you much
It’s fun to look at high stock prices, but the fact is, a stock’s price doesn’t tell you much by itself. As you can see in the list above, a stock can be any price, but the company’s size – as measured by market capitalization – can be anything. A stock price alone doesn’t even tell you how expensive a stock is!
While there are huge companies on this list – Alphabet and Amazon, for two – Microsoft and Apple don’t make the cut, even though they’re both comparably large. So what’s going on?
You need several more pieces of information to make the stock price meaningful:
- The total number of shares in the company
- The company’s market capitalization
- The earnings per share
Those pieces of information provide the context to give the share price meaning.
Total number of shares
The total number of shares in the company tells you how many slices the company has been divided into. A company can be divided into any number of shares, as long as shareholders agree to it.
Think of a company like a pizza, where you can cut any number of slices. The size (stock price) of any individual piece doesn’t tell you much about the size of the whole pizza pie, however.
In fact, many companies purposely keep their stocks within certain ranges, often $20 to $120 per share. They’ll strategically use a stock split to keep their stock at a lower price and to make it easier for investors to buy some shares, meaning they’ll need fewer dollars to invest.
A company’s market capitalization, or market cap, is more useful. Again, think of that pizza cut up into slices. Well, the market cap is the total size of all those slices put together. So the market cap tells you just how big or valuable the company is in total.
Market capitalization = Stock price * Number of shares outstanding
And that’s why comparably large companies such as Apple and Microsoft don’t make the list. They have a huge number of shares, but they cut the company’s total stock into even more slices, effectively reducing the share price in the process.
Earnings per share
One final piece of information that investors use to analyze the company is its earnings per share. They’ll use earnings per share to figure out a price-earnings ratio (P/E), in order to measure how much they’re paying for a given amount of the company’s earnings. And that’s how some investors measure how expensive a stock actually is.
A higher P/E ratio signals that investors are paying more for the company’s earnings, while a lower one indicates that they’re not as willing to pay as much.
So a company’s earnings per share shows you how much you’re getting for the stock price you’re paying. You’re likely to get much higher earnings per share for companies with a high stock price than those with a low stock price, all else equal.
For example, Amazon reported earnings per share of $41.83 in 2020 against its current stock price trading near $3,000. Meanwhile, Berkshire Hathaway reported earnings of $26,668 for each Series A share, where the price is around $430,000.
Combine that EPS information with the stock price and you can figure out how much you’re paying for each dollar of the firm’s earnings.
While it can be fun to highlight high-priced stocks, the price doesn’t tell you all that much by itself. Rather, you need information about the total size of the pie in order to gauge a company’s true scale. As former New York Yankees catcher and baseball legend Yogi Berra famously joked: “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
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Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.