Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s “stellar operating performance finally has catapulted the company into the No. 1 spot in the Barron’s 500, up from No. 2 in 2012 and No. 4 in 2011,” Jacqueline Doherty writes for Barron’s. “Apple has shown what it takes — terrific sales growth and wisely deployed cash flow — to be a winner in our annual ranking, which seeks to identify businesses that have done the best job of investing for growth.”

“To be sure, investors have grown fearful that Apple’s magic won’t last — so fearful that they knocked the stock down to $450 from $705 last September, erasing $239 billion from the company’s market value,” Doherty writes. “But before pronouncing the creator of iPods, iPhones, and iPads a has-been, or even just an ordinary company, let’s pause to acknowledge its triumph over a tough crowd of competitors in landing at the top of our list.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’ stock has risen from a low of 387.97 on Apr 19, 2013 to close at $449.98 on Friday, May 3rd. In pre-market trading today, AAPL is currently up another $6.36 to $456.34.

Doherty writes, “The iMaestro delivered a 44.6% bounce in revenue, to $157 billion, in the fiscal year ended in September 2012. Free cash flow totaled $42.7 billion, and the free-cash-flow yield, an impressive 27%. That’s a lotta gadgets. Apple’s outperformance owed to the momentum of its twin product families, with iPhone unit sales rising 73%, to 125 million units, and iPad unit sales up 80%, to 58 million; iPhones accounted for 51% of revenue, and iPads, 20%.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Dan K.” for the heads up.]