Apple's gigantic pile of cash keeps shrinking

Apple’s treasure trove of cash continued to shrink in the third quarter.

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The tech giant on Tuesday said it ended the third quarter with $210.6 billion in cash, down 6.6 percent from the prior quarter and 15.7 percent year-over-year.

And although its cash pile is more than 26 percent below its first-quarter 2018 peak of $285.1 billion, Apple still has more cash on hand than any other company in the United States.

Microsoft, which is No. 2, said earlier this month it had $133.8 billion in its coffers.

So what has Apple been spending its cash on?

On Tuesday's earnings call, CEO Tim Cook said the company "returned over $21 billion to shareholders during the quarter, including $17 billion through open market repurchases of almost $88 million Apple shares and $3.6 billion in dividends and equivalents.”

Apple has also been spending money on ramping up its services business and making acquisitions.

In May, Cook said Apple buys a company every few weeks. Last week, Apple purchased Intel’s smartphone-modem chip business for $1 billion.

And while most of its deals as of late have been relatively small, Wall Street is speculating a big deal may be on the horizon.

"Apple generates more cash than some countries and in our opinion the trifecta of buybacks, dividends, and more aggressive M&A will be the strategy for Cook & Co. going forward," Wedbush managing director Dan Ives told FOX Business. "We believe Cupertino is poised to get more aggressive on M&A with its latest $1 billion Intel 5G acquisition the tip of the iceberg in our opinion with more content acquisitions potentially on the horizon."

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Apple on Tuesday evening released strong third-quarter results that topped Wall Street estimates. Shares were up more than 4 percent ahead of Wednesday’s opening bell. It was poised to open with a market value of just under $1 trillion.