Craig Ruttle, File, Associated Press
FILE - In this July 21, 2011 file photo, a window washer works atop the cube-like structure of glass that houses the Apple Store showroom in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Apple Inc. said it will announce the outcome of its internal discussion concerning its enormous cash balance on Monday morning, March 19, 2012.

NEW YORK — Apple shares headed for another all-time high Monday ahead of an announcement about what the company plans to do with its enormous pile of cash.

Apple said late Sunday that CEO Tim Cook would make an announcement before the market opens Monday. Shares jumped 3 percent in electronic trading, which put them on pace to break the $600 per-share barrier once again.

Apple is the world's most valuable publicly traded company, with a market capitalization of $545 billion.

Analysts believe the lack of a dividend or other use for the cash has held down Apple's share price. They expect Apple to institute a dividend.

Apple can easily afford one, since it had $97.6 billion in cash and securities at the end of last year. That would be enough for a $100 one-time dividend for every shareholder, but analysts expect the company to institute a modest recurring dividend.

A dividend would reward shareholders and open ownership of Apple shares to a wider range of funds. Many "value-oriented" funds are not allowed to buy stocks that don't pay dividends.

Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said in January that the board was in "active" discussions on ways to use the cash. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, haunted by lean years in the mid-1990s, was hesitant to part with the cash. Jobs died in October.

Apple's stock has risen 37 percent since Jan. 24, when Oppenheimer first spoke of potential plans for the cash hoard, which has closed much of the gap between analyst price targets and the actual stock price. In February, Apple shares broke the $500 level for the first time. Last week, they briefly rose above $600.

Shares of Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif., rose $16.54 to $602.11 in premarket trading.