We invest in
1. Apple Inc
2. Alphabet Inc
3. Microsoft Corporation
4. Amazon Inc
5. Facebook Inc
6. Berkshire Hathaway
7. Alibaba Group
8. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
9. ExxonMobil Corporation
10. Bank of America
The stock market continues to prove itself as one of the best places for people to grow their wealth. With the markets up strongly this year, the total market capitalization — that is, the total market value of companies’ shares — of the U.S. stock market is $27.5 trillion at recent prices. That’s a tremendous amount of wealth, with a significant portion of it held in regular folks’ retirement accounts.
Surprisingly enough, a huge portion of that value is derived from a very small group of companies. Of the thousands of publicly traded companies operating today, the 30 largest ones are worth almost $10 trillion — about one-third of the entire market’s value.
Here is a closer look at each of the 30 biggest companies on the stock market. (Note: All market data as of Nov. 30, 2017.)
1. Apple Inc.
With a market capitalization of $868.8 billion, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has made for one of the greatest investing stories in history. And not once, but twice. Founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976, the early success of its Apple I, Apple II, and Macintosh computers made it a huge financial success for anyone who invested in the company after its 1980 IPO. But a number of challenges and a power struggle led to the departure of Jobs in 1985.
After years of steady loss of market share to another company on this list, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple brought Jobs back in 1997, when the company was on the brink of failure. Following his return, Apple went on to develop the iMac, iPod (and subsequently iTunes), and the product that has made it the most valuable public company on Earth: the iPhone in 2007. The company is on track to ship 30 million of its new iPhone X smartphones in the current quarter. Given their price of $999 to $1,149 each, the company should command more than $30 billion in sales this quarter from this single product.
2. Alphabet Inc.
The parent company of Google, Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), is worth $720.8 billion. But unlike Apple, which makes a living selling high-end tech devices, Alphabet doesn’t charge its users much or anything at all for most of its services. YouTube, Google search, Gmail, Google Drive cloud storage, and Documents productivity software are all free at their basic levels, while some premium services — like additional storage and ad-free content on YouTube — are available for a modest fee.
That’s because you are actually Alphabet’s product. The vast majority of the company’s income — $21 billion over the past 12 months — comes from advertising revenue. By providing us with all of these amazingly useful things for no charge, Google aggregates a oceans of user information that helps marketers better target the right audience.
And Alphabet uses those massive profits to invest in even more innovation. The company is a leader in self-driving vehicle technology, clean energy, and connecting more of the world to the internet.
3. Microsoft Corporation
Like Apple, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) played a big role in the advent of affordable personal computing. But while Apple developed a fully integrated software and hardware system, Microsoft is all about software. It also was a big reason why Apple lost the home PC wars in the late 1980s, while Microsoft, with its “Wintel” duopoly with Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) (which is also on this list) went on to command virtually the entire personal computer market for decades.
However, Microsoft has all but missed out on the smartphone revolution, with its Windows Phone never really garnering much commercial success. However, this lack of success with handheld devices hasn’t kept Big Softy from being wildly profitable and still a growth company. After all, the company’s operating systems and other software are still critically important to running the infrastructure that powers much of the world’s computing power.
Microsoft has become a major player in cloud computing, a huge growth market. The company increased its market share last year, growing segment revenue 14% to $7 billion last quarter alone. Microsoft may have lost out to Apple in mobile computing, but it’s not going to miss out on the cloud.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is one of few companies to emerge from the late 1990s tech bubble a success. And with a market cap of $560 billion, it easily qualifies as the biggest. Started by Jeff Bezos as an online bookstore, Amazon sells just about everything today, and tens of millions of people subscribe to its Prime membership program for free shipping, free TV, and free movie streaming. Prime members count on Amazon as their first — and often only — stop for online shopping. The company’s sales are growing strongly: Last quarter alone, revenue was up 34% to $44 billion. E-commerce isn’t the only nascent industry Amazon is dominating, either. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is the company’s cloud computing provider, and Amazon commands substantial market share in this space as one of the lowest-cost providers. Last quarter, AWS generated almost $1.2 billion in operating income for Amazon, and it’s set for potentially years of growth to come.
5. Facebook Inc.
The dominant social media platform, Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), is worth $508.9 billion. Founded by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and several other Harvard students in 2004, it was initially available only to fellow Harvard classmates and then a few other colleges.
Like Google, Facebook doesn’t charge its users a dime, instead making money — $15 billion last year — from advertising. And with more than 2 billion active global users, who share a lot of information about their lives and interests on the site, Facebook is a very compelling partner for marketers. How compelling? Consider this: Since 2015, Facebook has seen its market share grow from an already-absurd 74% to 79% of the market share of ad revenue spent on social networking sites in the U.S.
More than 26% of humanity regularly uses Facebook. That’s a stunning figure, but it also means about three-fourths of us don’t. Facebook’s management would tell you that’s room for growth.
6. Berkshire Hathaway
Led by legendary investor and CEO Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B) is worth $468.4 billion. Since Buffett took over the company 50 years ago — it was a struggling textile manufacturer at the time — and converted it into a holding company for his various other investments, Berkshire has created enormous wealth for tens of thousands of shareholders.
Today, Berkshire is a sprawling conglomerate, with subsidiaries engaged in insurance, railways, candy making, manufacturing, electricity production, and too many other businesses to name here. Much of Berkshire’s value also owes to its stock portfolio, which includes a number of the other companies on this list. At last count, Berkshire’s stock holdings were worth about $180 billion, an amount that’s likely to grow for years to come
7. Alibaba Group
Founded by executive chairman Jack Ma in 1999, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) started out connecting Chinese manufacturers to international buyers. Today, Alibaba Group is a lot more than that, having grown to become the e-commerce giant in China, with nearly 500 million active users over the past four quarters. Sales were up 61% last quarter, and the company expects revenue to increase as much as 53% for the full year.
Alibaba Group has rocketed up the top 30 list on expectations that its growth is just getting started. This year, the stock price has climbed 90%, even after a recent 9% drop. With China’s middle class on track to crack 500 million people within a few years, Alibaba’s best days could well be ahead.
8. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) has its roots as far back as 1799, with the founding of one of its predecessors, the Bank of the Manhattan Company. After dozens of acquisitions and mergers in the many years since, today’s JPMorgan Chase is America’s biggest bank, and one of the world’s largest by total assets. It’s worth $360 million at recent share prices.
Since the Great Recession, JPMorgan Chase, under the leadership of CEO Jamie Dimon, has built up a fortress-like balance sheet and developed some of the most conservative lending practices in the industry. So, even as one of the biggest banks out there, it is also considered one of the safest for investors to own.
With a market cap of $348.6 billion, ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) is similar to JPMorgan Chase in that it’s a product of numerous acquisitions and mergers over the years. It also has its roots in the early days of the American oil industry, directly descended from multiple companies that were part of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.
A true integrated “supermajor,” ExxonMobil participates in every aspect of the oil and gas value chain, including exploration and production, distribution, refining and chemical manufacturing, and selling refined products. Last quarter, this generated $66 billion in sales and $4 billion in profits — better than recent quarters thanks to higher oil prices. But at the same time, there are growing concerns that the advent of cheaper renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles will start making fossil fuels irrelevant sooner than many expect.
10. Bank of America
With a market cap of $295.7 billion, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) is second to JPMorgan Chase among the most valuable U.S. banks. It’s also the nation’s second-biggest bank by assets as well.
Unlike many of its megabank peers, Bank of America’s roots aren’t in New York: The company started with the founding of the Bank of Italy in San Francisco in 1904 to serve the large immigrant community in the city, which faced discrimination by other banks at the time. By the late 1920s, Bank of Italy was renamed Bank of America and Italy, and it would merge with another California-based bank named — you guessed it — Bank of America. Now headquartered in North Carolina, B of A was one of the banks hit hardest by the financial crisis, with two major acquisitions — Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch — leading to billions of dollars in losses, as well as tens of billions in fines and penalties related to Countrywide’s mortgage practices. But today, Bank of America has emerged strong and profitable under the solid leadership of CEO Brian Moynihan.