Each week, I'm ranking the biggest companies that trade on U.S. exchanges based on their size (market capitalization), momentum (total return over the past year), and recent news. Before we get to the rankings, a quick word on a major player.
There was a moment this past week when Microsoft (MSFT 0.71%) became the world's most valuable company in terms of market capitalization. The software giant's ascending stock price, coupled with Apple's (AAPL 0.61%) sharp correction, made them passing ships in this volatile market.
Not since 2002 has Microsoft closed out a year as the country's market cap leader. The gap between the two tech legends that was more than $250 billion at Apple's peak two months ago, and as little as $30 billion a week ago, had Microsoft on top at the end of the latest trading week by less than $4 billion.
Apple slipped out of the top spot on this weekly list last weekend. It won't be back until its trailing stock performance improves relative to the two names that passed it up last week. Market cap is one variable in these rankings, but not the only one. Apple came close to squeezing out a photo-finish win, but for now, Microsoft reigns with its far superior return. And Amazon.com (AMZN -0.48%) is more likely than Apple to claim the top spot in the coming weeks as the holiday shopping season plays out.
With that in mind, let's review this week's updated list of 50 top large-cap stocks, kicking things off with the top 10.
This week's top 10 stocks
10. Alibaba (BABA -0.72%) (new): $413.7 billion market cap, down 9.2% over the past year.
China's leading online marketplace operator makes its debut in the Top 10. Chinese growth stocks remain out of favor, but Alibaba leapfrogged Facebook over the past week to claim the sixth largest market cap among U.S. exchange-listed investments. It has trimmed its double-digit percentage slide over the past year to a single-digit loss. This is a global juggernaut on pace to deliver $54.8 billion in revenue this year, 52% ahead of last year's showing. Trade tariff challenges aside, Alibaba's too big to not make the cut.
9. UnitedHealth (UNH 0.85%) (down from 8): $270.7 billion, up 23.3%.
The healthcare provider hosted an analyst day on Tuesday, and at least two Wall Street pros raised their price targets on the stock, with a third analyst issuing a bullish note. UnitedHealth initiated guidance for the next fiscal year, eyeing 13% to 15% in earnings growth on roughly an 8% revenue increase. Management laid out a 10-year plan in which revenue will more than double, and UnitedHealth also talked up tech advances that will speed up prescription deliveries. Sarah James at Piper Jaffray was one of the analysts with rosier price goals after meeting with the company. She lifted her price target on the stock from $300 to $312.
8. JPMorgan Chase (JPM 0.13%) (down from 7): $369.7 billion, up 6.4%.
There's still money to be made by banking on the banker. The consumer and investment banking giant behind the namesake brokerage and credit card businesses has beaten Wall Street's profit targets in each of the past four quarters. JPMorgan Chase also has one of the chunkiest dividends among the Top 10, with its nearly 3% yield. It has increased its payouts every year since the subprime-lending meltdown bottomed out in 2010.
7. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.19%) (up from 9): $394.0 billion, up 5.4%.
A common knock on the country's healthcare is that drug prices are too high, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is proposing policies that would arm Medicare Advantage and Part D plans with the ability to negotiate lower drug prices by 2020. This should come as welcome news for consumers, but the ramifications may not be so kind for the major pharmaceuticals companies such as Johnson & Johnson that rely on big markups to offset the heavy investments to get treatments approved in the first place.
6. Visa (V 0.19%): $312.7 billion, up 25.9%.
Stranger Things or Spinal Tap fans may appreciate a lot of eleven in Visa's near-term prospects. Analysts see the credit card giant growing its revenue by 11% in each of the next two years. Payment volume at Visa for both its latest quarter and all of the recently concluded fiscal 2018 also clocked in at 11% on both fronts. Visa's ability to keep growing at a double-digit percentage clip is a testament to both its own success and consumer trends that are continuing to shift away from cash transactions.
5. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -0.23%) (down from 4): $536.4 billion, up 11.8%.
If you want to buy into Warren Buffett's legendary company but don't have $326,000 burning a hole in your pocket to buy a single share, there's always Plan B. There's a second class of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B -0.22%) that trades for a sliver of the original. The Class B shares initially rolled out as a way for mainstream retail investors to ride on the coattails of the Oracle of Omaha at a lower price point, and a 50-for-1 stock split in 2010 made it even cheaper. You'll need 1,500 shares of the Class B to equal the voting and investing power of the original Class A stock, but at a little more than $218 a share, it's a far more feasible option for most mainstream investors.
4. Alphabet (GOOG 0.45%) (GOOGL 0.41%) (up from 5): $766.4 billion, up 7.9%.
YouTube has become a major part of the Google and now Alphabet story over the years, and the popular video-sharing site was making moves this week. It began the by introducing discounted student plans for its YouTube Music and YouTube Premium platforms. Later in the week it revealed that the original shows it puts out exclusively for YouTube Premium subscribers will be made available to free users of its main site on an ad-supported basis. Both moves are about expanding its potential audience base.
3. Apple: $847.4 billion, down 3.9%.
Apple stock has now fallen for three consecutive months, capped by a brutal 18.4% slide in November alone. Reports of sluggish iPhone XR sales have investors wondering if we've hit peak Apple. It doesn't help that President Trump specifically mentioned Apple and the iPhones and Macs it makes in China as possibly being subject to trade tariffs if relations don't improve between the U.S. and the world's most populous nation. If you thought the new iPhones were having a problem selling at their current price points, this could be more pain for Apple if threats translate into actions and even more expensive gadgetry.
2. Amazon.com: $826.4 billion, up 43.6%.
Cyber Monday proved to be another record shopping day for Amazon. Amazon sold more than 180 million items between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, but the final day of that five-day holiday shopping launch was the biggest in the e-tailer's history. The record will last until probably next summer. Amazon's self-created Prime Day sales event in July wrestled away the record set during last year's Cyber Monday, and it's a fair bet that Prime Day and Cyber Monday will continue to top one another as long as Amazon's popularity continues to grow.
1. Microsoft: $851.2 billion, up 31.7%.
The market sees Microsoft as the leading player in computer operating system software and productivity applications, but there's a lot of tech going on beneath the surface. For one thing, Microsoft was awarded a $480 million U.S. Army contract this past week for augmented-reality systems. The deal calls for the Department of Defense to buy as many as 100,000 headsets, using augmented reality to give troops a leg up in training and to make better combat decisions.
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.
Salesforce.com (WMT 0.81%) was one of this week's biggest winners, soaring 17% and moving a few notches up on our Top 50 in the process. The cloud-based provider of enterprise software solutions came through with another blowout financial report on Tuesday. Revenue rose 26% in its fiscal third quarter, with adjusted earnings shooting 45% higher. Salesforce's performance landed well ahead of its earlier guidance as well as Wall Street expectations. Analysts at Piper Jaffray, Citi, BMO, and Wedbush jacked up their price targets following the beat-and-raise report, with Salesforce boosting its fiscal-year guidance.
Stocks 11 through 50
11. Facebook (META -0.15%): $404.1 billion, down 20.6%.
12. Pfizer (PFE -0.50%): $267.2 billion, up 27.5%.
13. Verizon (VZ 0.06%):$249.2 billion market cap, up 18.5%.
14. Walmart (WMT 0.81%): $283.7 billion, up 0.4%.
15. Merck (MRK 0.67%): $206.3 billion, up 43.5%.
16. Bank of America Corporation (BAC): $278.7 billion, up 0.8%.
17. ExxonMobil (XOM -0.65%): $336.6 billion, down 4.6%.
18. Cisco (CSCO -0.02%): $215.2 billion, up 28.3%.
19. Mastercard (MA 0.44%): $207.7 billion, up 33.6%.
20. Boeing (BA -0.42%): $196.9 billion, up 25.3%.
21. Netflix (NFLX 2.49%): $124.8 billion, up 52.5%.
22. Procter & Gamble (PG -0.01%): $235.5 billion, up 5%.
23. Coca-Cola (KO 0.38%): $214.5 billion, up 10.1%.
24. Intel (INTC -1.68%): $225.1 billion, up 10%.
25. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A): $249.9 billion, down 0.4%.
26. Novartis (NOV -1.64%): $210.3 billion, up 8%.
27. Disney (DIS -0.80%): $171.9 billion, up 10.2%.
28. PetroChina (PTR): $191.9 billion, up 4.6%.
29. Home Depot (HD -1.32%): $203.7 billion, up 0.3%.
30. Comcast (CMCSA -0.56%): $177.5 billion, up 3.9%.
31. Wells Fargo (WFC -0.67%): $255.5 billion, down 3.9%.
32. McDonald's (MCD 0.34%): $145.3 billion, up 9.6%.
33. Chevron (CVX -0.15%): $227.3 billion, down 0.1%.
34. Oracle (ORCL 1.98%): $184.7 billion, down 0.6%.
35. PepsiCo (PEP 0.33%): $172.2 billion, up 4.7%.
36. Eli Lilly (LLY -0.03%): $116.6 billion, up 40.2%.
37. Abbott Laboratories (ABT 0.71%): $130.1 billion, up 31.4%.
38. Adobe (ADBE 4.03%): $122.5 billion, up 38.8%.
39. Nike (NKE -0.24%): $119.3 billion, up 24.3%.
40. Salesforce.com (CRM 2.47%): $109.2 billion, up 36.8%.
41. AT&T (T -0.69%): $227.4 billion, down 14.1%.
42. Medtronic (MDT 0.66%): $131.0 billion, up 18.8%.
43. Amgen (AMGN -0.75%): $132.7 billion, up 18.6%.
44. Union Pacific (UNP -0.86%): $113.3 billion. up 21.6%.
45.GlaxoSmithKline (GSK 0.01%): $101.7 billion, up 26.7%.
46. Costco (COST -0.55%): $101.3 billion, up 25.4%.
47. BHP Billiton (BHP -0.48%): $119.3 billion, up 12.4%.
48. Starbucks (SBUX -1.28%): $82.8 billion, up 15.4%.
49. China Mobile (CHL): $203.2 billion, down 2%.
50. PayPal (PYPL -1.04%): $101.1 billion, up 13.3%.
Who's in and who's out
We have two new entries cracking the top 50 this week. GlaxoSmithKline makes its debut, one of several pharmaceutical giants that have been big hits with the market over the past year. The stock's juicy 4.7% yield will please income investors, too.
PayPal also makes it back to the list. It was bumped off by Toyota Motors (TM 1.29%) last week for the final slot, but PayPal's 10% advance over the past week while Toyota shifted into neutral had the two stocks switching places again this time around.
The other name to be shown the door this week is Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA). The media mogul was one of just two stocks from last week's top 50 with market caps below $100 million. The stock's 55% surge over the past year has made it a staple here, but we're also considering recent momentum in these rankings. Twenty-First Century Fox shot sharply higher late last year, after Disney cut a deal for its film and television assets. Things got even hotter earlier this year, when Comcast emerged as a rival bidder, forcing to Disney to raise its ultimately victorious bid.
Twenty-First Century Fox has been in a holding pattern in recent months. The stock is essentially where it was six months ago. Once the deal is complete, the remaining assets at Twenty-First Century Fox will make it a much smaller company.
One to watch
Intuitive Surgical (ISRG 0.66%) is one of the names bubbling beneath the surface on our list. The maker of high-tech medical equipment's market cap of $60.6 billion would make it the smallest company on our list by far, but the stock's 32.8% ascent over the past year beats most of the investments currently on the top 50.
Intuitive Surgical is the company behind the daVinci robotic arm that translates a surgeon's hand movements into more precise surgical incisions. The surgical robotics system is helping improve procedure success rates and even patient recovery times.
Growth has slowed at Intuitive Surgical. Adjusted revenue rose just 17% in its latest quarter. However, as daVinci continues to be approved for more surgical procedures and gains mainstream acceptance, the future looks bright for Intuitive Surgical.