Let's have some fun. People love ranked lists of everything from fantasy football lineups to the year's hottest songs, so let's give Wall Street's biggest stocks the same kind of platform.
We're sizing up some of the biggest companies that trade on stateside exchanges, a pool that includes more than 200 potential investments. We'll rank them based on a mix of their size (market capitalization), momentum (total return over the past year), and recent news. As companies' fortunes rise and fall, we'll adjust our power rankings every week.
Let's go over this brand-new list of 50 top large-cap stocks, starting with the cream of the crop: the top 10.
This week's top 10 stocks
10. Facebook (META -1.92%): $432.1 billion market capitalization, down 16% over the past year
The world's leading social network commands the sixth-largest market cap on U.S.-listed exchanges, but it sinks in the rankings because it's the one name among the top 10 this week that has seen its stock decline over the past year. You've heard the story by now. Facebook is bumping up against privacy concerns. Millennials are shying away from Facebook. They're flocking to Instagram -- perhaps unaware that it's also owned by Facebook -- and that platform has been tougher for the company to monetize. Sorry, Facebook -- your friend request has been denied.
9. Pfizer (PFE -0.12%): $251.7 billion, up 21.1%
The "P" is silent in Pfizer, but the same can't be said about the pharmaceuticals giant's profits. Revenue only rose 2% in its latest quarter as new drugs offset the declines of older treatments that are now off patent and thus facing generic competition. Nevertheless, adjusted earnings per share rose 16%. Pfizer also received accelerated FDA approval for Lorbrena, a potential treatment for a type of non-small cell lung cancer. The stock's juicy 3.1% dividend yield doesn't hurt either. The "P" in potential also isn't silent.
8. JPMorgan Chase (JPM -0.74%): $360.4 billion, up 6.7%
A giant in consumer banking, investment banking, and credit cards, JPMorgan remains a smart way to play the financial-services industry. Lyft announced last month that it was tapping JPMorgan to serve as lead underwriter for its highly anticipated IPO. JPMorgan commands one of the lower valuations in this list, selling for less than 12 times this year's earnings. The stock also offers a dividend yield of nearly 3%.
7. Walmart (WMT -0.63%): $296.8 billion, up 14.1%
There's money to be made in discounting. Walmart is the country's leading brick-and-mortar retailer, but it has stepped up its online game recently with the acquisitions of Jet.com and Flipkart. Walmart disappointed investors last month when it lowered its adjusted earnings outlook for fiscal 2019 to account for dilution from the Flipkart transaction, but it sees sales growing at least 3% in fiscal 2020. Shoppers love a good bargain.
6. Visa (V -1.06%): $309.8 billion, up 26%
We're becoming a cash-less society, and credit card giant Visa is there for the swiping. Visa processed $32.8 billion in transactions during the third quarter, 12% ahead of where it was a year earlier. Visa remains a widely accepted card platform worldwide, and you have to give it some -- double bad pun alert -- credit for leading the charge.
5. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -1.14%): $512.1 billion, up 8.8%
Even at age 88, Warren Buffett remains the best investor of our generation. Most investors can't afford even a single share of the company's original Class A shares, but that's what happens when you command the only six-digit stock price in the investing universe. (The Class B shares, meanwhile, cost only a couple hundred dollars, rather than a few hundred thousand.) Berkshire Hathaway's book value has ballooned to $228,712 per share as of the end of September. Buffett sure knows how to create value, even as he scoffs at your request to break a $100,000 bill.
4. Alphabet (GOOG -1.38%): $740.4 billion, up 2.7%
The company formerly known as Google has barely moved over the past year. It ran into some bad press last week when The New York Times wrote a scathing report claiming that top executives engaged in sexual misconduct. Financially speaking, Alphabet is a tale of two extremes. Its revenue is accelerating for the third year in a row, but earnings growth has gone the opposite direction. Alphabet has missed Wall Street profit targets twice over the past year, which is a rare occurrence in the company's history.
3. Amazon.com (AMZN -3.66%): $814.4 billion, up 52.2%
The world's leading online retailer turned heads this summer when it followed Apple in hitting the $1 trillion market cap mark. Amazon didn't stay in the 13-digit club for long: Its shares slipped two weeks ago after the company posted fresh financials that didn't wow the market. Amazon missed analyst sales estimates, and its guidance suggests decelerating online growth will continue. Amazon remains a big winner over the past year, but torrid gains have a funny way of inflating expectations.
2. Microsoft (MSFT -2.61%): $814.9 billion, up 26.3%
Fire up the DeLorean, Doc, and let's go back to the future. Apple and Microsoft are on top of this list, and it may seem like a throwback to the 1980s, when the two companies were the darlings of the nascent PC space. Microsoft is no longer just about pushing Windows operating systems and Office applications. It's a multifaceted software giant, and it has actually outperformed Apple stock over the past year.
1. Apple (AAPL -0.78%): $986.6 billion, up 23.4%
The world's most valuable company by market cap disappointed investors with its quarterly report last week, but its dominant market position and still-hearty double-digit return over the past 12 months keep it entrenched at the top. Apple posted better-than-expected results for its fiscal fourth quarter, but soft iPhone unit sales and a problematic outlook for the holiday quarter rained on the earnings-season parade. The new iPhones sell at much higher price points, so it's not a deal breaker if the actual number of iPhones sold is slowing. Apple also unveiled new MacBooks. There's never a dull moment in Cupertino.
The rank and file
We'll get to No. 11 through No. 50 in a moment, but first, let's look at some other top-50 stocks that are making waves -- for better or worse.
Starbucks (SBUX -1.81%) introduced holiday-themed reusable cups last week, and as fate would have it, the baron of baristas saw its app go glitchy at the lousiest time. The non-responsive Starbucks app is a pretty big deal now that the chain is relying on an uptick in mobile orders to offset sluggish walk-in traffic.
Last week's quarterly report saw Starbucks check in with a better-than-expected 3% increase in comparable-store sales worldwide -- and an even beefier 4% increase in the Americas -- but this is mostly the result of folks spending more on orders, rather than a rise in customer counts.
Starbucks is trying. It's putting even more marketing muscle behind Starbucks Rewards, the loyalty program that has increased its user base by 15% to 15.3 million active members over the past year. The chain is also committed to improving the in-store experience, which is no easy task as its counters become crowded with customers placing orders, others picking up mobile orders, and third-party delivery services fulfilling online requests.
One stock on this list that's headed in the wrong direction is AT&T (T 0.75%), whose share price tumbled after last month's quarterly report disappointed investors. DIRECTV is losing satellite television subscribers, and landline customers are ditching their hardwired talk boxes. AT&T's silver linings were continuing growth in its wireless service and initially strong contributions from Time Warner, which it acquired in a $110 billion deal earlier this year.
AT&T has increased its dividend for 34 years in a row. The hikes have historically come near the end of the year, and the stock will be in for more pain if it fails to stretch its payout-boosting streak to 35 years in a few weeks.
Stocks 11 through 50
11. Netlix (NFLX -0.94%): $134.8 billion, up 55.1%
137.1 million couch potatoes (and counting) can't be wrong. It may be November, but folks are still streaming The Haunting of Hill House.
12. Alibaba Group (BABA -2.30%): $379.6 billion, down 20.1%
Investors have been bailing out of Chinese growth stocks since June. Alibaba's market cap topped $500 billion earlier this year.
13. ExxonMobil (XOM 0.17%): $347.0 billion, down 1.9%
The gas giant has fallen short of Wall Street's profit targets for three consecutive quarters.
14. Bank of America Corporation (BAC -2.96%): $273.7 billion, up 0.1%
Big Banking hasn't amounted to big gains for investors, though B of A remains a titan among U.S.-based companies.
15. UnitedHealth (UNH -0.99%): $251.2 billion, up 23.6%
The healthcare provider isn't calling in sick with a strong return over the past 12 months.
16. Cisco (CSCO -0.65%): $207.9 billion, up 32.9%
Investors are rooting for routers -- and Cisco's other networking gear -- again.
17. Verizon Communications (VZ 0.69%): $234.0 billion, up 19.3%
The country's leading wireless carrier is making a winning connection with investors.
18. Mastercard (MA -1.21%): $204.2 billion, up 33.4%
Visa's credit card rival has a lower ranking because it's two-thirds the size, but both stocks are handily beating the market.
19. Boeing (BA 0.58%): $203.2 billion, up 36.2%
Plane orders and air cargo demand are on lucrative ascent. Fasten your seatbelts.
20. Merck (MRK -0.76%): $192.2 billion, up 30.5%
Investors are gravitating to drug stocks as a safe harbor. That's just what the doctor ordered.
21. Disney (DIS -2.61%): $171.3 billion, up 17.1%
Record theme park attendance and several recent megablockbuster movies have Disney whistling while it works.
22. PetroChina (PTR): $211.0 billion, up 9.8%
The world's largest gasoline company is in the world's most populous nation, which sounds like a winning combination as the country's middle class expands and puts more cars on the road.
23. Home Depot (HD -2.63%): $205.9 billion, up 10.6%
Americans are improving their homes, and they're turning to folks in orange aprons to make the updates happen.
24. Coca-Cola (KO -1.08%): $204,3 billion, up 4.6%
Consumption of sugary soft drinks is waning, so Coca-Cola is churning out new, healthier "functional beverages."
25. Comcast (CMCSA -1.70%): $171.3 billion, up 7.4%
The country's leading cable television provider is holding up better than the competition in the cord-cutting revolution. It scores bonus points for also being the country's largest broadband provider, as folks kissing their cable bills goodbye still need connectivity to stream.
26. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A): $259.6 billion, up 0.2%
Fill'er up. Like a car on an empty tank of gas, this stock hasn't gone anywhere over the past year, but at least it's not shifting into reverse.
27. Wells Fargo (WFC -2.37%): $252.6 billion, down 5.1%
"Established in 1852-Re-established in 2018" is Wells Fargo's clever campaign to distance itself from recent scandals. This banking giant will recover if the marketing campaign works.
28. Procter & Gamble (PG 0.21%): $223.8 billion, up 3.8%
Between Crest toothpaste, Pampers diapers, Tide Pods (not for consumption), and more, Procter & Gamble claims huge swaths of the shelf space at your local grocer.
29. Intel (INTC 0.65%): $215.0 billion, no change in share price
Intel is cranking out more chips than the Keebler elves.
30. Novartis (NOV 0.29%): $202.0 billion, up 5.9%
Three drug stocks are among the top 30 stocks in this list. You don't need a thermometer to tell that this sector is heating up.
31. McDonald's (MCD -1.26%): $136.3 billion, up 5.2%
Serving breakfast all day doesn't solve everything, but a lot of people are digging those Egg McMuffins at night.
32. PepsiCo (PEP -0.87%): $156.9 billion, up 1%
Coca-Cola is turning to sparkling water and other performance beverages. PepsiCo is doing the same thing, but it also has a deep bench of salty snacks and oatmeal.
33. AT&T (T 0.75%): $222.1 billion, down 8%
AT&T has added DIRECTV and, more recently, Time Warner to its portfolio. The stock's been a dud, but that has pushed its yield to a chunky 6.6%.
34. Chevron (CVX 0.23%): $219.8 billion, down 0.5%
Oil and gas hasn't been a winning industry -- until you check the next entry on this list for an international scorcher.
35. Ecopetrol (NYSE: EC): $44.3 billion, up 101.8%
The Colombian oil and gas company isn't a household name for stateside investors, but it's the only stock on this list that has more than doubled over the past year.
36. BHP Billiton (BHP -1.79%): $128.3 billion, up 22.5%
Australia's natural-resources behemoth searches the globe for opportunities in petroleum, copper, iron ore, and coal.
37. Medtronic (MDT -1.58%): $123.5 billion, up 17.4%
Ireland's Medtronic makes a variety of medical products that extend lives -- and, apparently, the account balances of shareholders.
38. Nike (NKE 0.56%): $121.6 billion, up 38.9%
If you're looking for a major brand in sports apparel that's crushing the market...just do it.
39. Abbott Laboratories (ABT 0.06%): $123.3 billion-Up 29.1%
From baby formula to glucose monitors for diabetics, Abbott knows who's on first.
40. NVIDIA (NVDA -2.83%): $130.7 billion, up 4.4%
NVIDIA got its start making graphic processors, but these days it's playing a starring role in everything from virtual reality to self-driving cars.
41. Adobe (ADBE -2.71%): $117.0 billion, up 32.4%
You don't need to fire up Adobe's Photoshop to doctor its stock chart. It looks pretty good on its own.
42. Union Pacific (UNP 0.56%): $109.5 billion. up 25.5%
You can't call railroads old-school when they're going choo choo in your portfolio.
43. Eli Lilly (LLY -2.43%): $106.5 billion, up 28.4%
Another slot goes to a pharmaceuticals giant. There's a trend playing out here.
44. Salesforce.com (CRM -1.91%): $103.5 billion, up 33.3%
Salesforce was into cloud computing before cloud computing was cool.
45. Costco (COST -1.10%): $100.9 billion, up 39.5%
Buying in bulk has been driving comparable-store sales growth higher at the leading warehouse club operator.
46. PayPal (PYPL -2.15%): $98.4 billion, up 15.6%
There was a time when PayPal was secondary to its former parent eBay (EBAY -2.39%), but the electronic payments platform is thriving on its own.
47. Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA): $85.9 billion, up 80.3%
The second-biggest gainer on this list has surged after a bidding war broke out for its key assets. Mickey Mouse won.
48. Starbucks (SBUX -1.81%): $84.2 billion, up 17.2%
Pumpkin spice latte season is blending into holiday cup season -- and all is right in the world of your favorite barista that always spells your name right.
49. TJX Companies (TJX -0.94%): $67.7 billion, up 55.9%
Walmart isn't the only one succeeding in selling marked-down goods to cost-conscious shoppers. TJX is the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.
50. Lowe's (LOW -2.71%): $78.5 billion, up 26.3%
If Home Depot is killing it, you know that its smaller rival is making it happen, too (sans orange aprons).
One to watch
One of the companies that almost made the cut this week was China Mobile (CHL). China's largest wireless phone service provider has a stranglehold on the Chinese wireless market, with a whopping 916 million mobile customers -- nearly three times as many as its largest competitor.
China has a more sophisticated wireless market than you probably think, with 76% of China Mobile's customers on its robust 4G network. China didn't experience the same kind of PC migration wave that we did in the U.S. a decade ago, so for many Chinese consumers, the smartphone is their first -- and perhaps only -- computer.
China Mobile is growing slowly, having added 10 million customers in its latest quarter. Slow yet steady growth has helped China Mobile's stock hold up better than glitzier growth companies in the country, and a fat dividend is also keeping income investors close. The stock did retreat slightly after the company reported uninspiring financial results late last month, explaining why China Mobile didn't crack the Top 50 this time around.