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.
The race for the market cap crown among Microsoft (MSFT 0.47%), Apple (AAPL 0.22%) and Amazon.com (AMZN -0.66%) is intensifying. The three tech bellwethers had market caps $172.2 billion apart when I initiated this weekly list five weeks ago. The gap is now less than $10 billion.
Apple's sharp correction on concerns of waning iPhone demand while Microsoft and Amazon hold relatively steady have changed the narrative. Apple is no longer the most valuable company in terms of market cap, and at several points over the past week it was bringing up the rear, before squeezing past Amazon for the silver medal in a photo finish.
The race is tight enough that the rankings turn to stock gains and momentum, and that's what gave Amazon, whose stock is up by better than 40% over the past year, top billing for the first time. Microsoft is no slouch with its 27% ascent in that time, but Amazon is the one worthy of throne for now.
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 -0.74%): $393.7 billion market cap, down 12.3% over the past year.
China's most valuable company is more than just an online marketplace operator. Alibaba's empire spans several other businesses, and one of them is popular video-streaming service Youku. The online video hub has become a drama fit for its own programming lately, and this past week we saw its leader step down in light of a corruption probe. Alibaba revealed in a regulatory filing that Weidong Yang was arrested and is under police investigation in China for alleged acceptance of improper payments. We'll learn more about this unfortunate situation in the coming weeks.
9. Pfizer (PFE -0.31%) (new): $253.9 billion, up 23.7%.
The pharmaceuticals giant makes its top-10 debut this week. Pfizer is the company behind high-cholesterol tackler Lipitor, antidepressant Zoloft, and the purple Viagra erectile-dysfunction pill. Pfizer has dozens of drugs and consumer products in its arsenal, on pace to ring up nearly $54 billion in revenue this year. Like most of the major drugmakers, Pfizer also packs a decent quarterly dividend into the mix. The stock yields 3.1%. Its market cap is the smallest among the top 10 entries, but rising nearly 24% over the past year earns it a spot on the list.
8. JPMorgan Chase (JPM 0.20%) (down from 7): $343.4 billion, down 1.3%.
Credit Suisse lowered priced targets across various investment bankers, and JPMorgan Chase wasn't spared. Analyst Susan Roth Katzke is sticking to her bullish "outperform" rating on the stock, but she's cutting her price goal on the shares from $130 to $128. It was also a rough week for JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, as protestors interrupted a presentation he was making at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services conference.
7. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.16%) (up from 9): $390.0 billion, up 3.9%.
One nasty episode can now start fading in the rearview mirror for Johnson & Johnson. Its Actelion Pharmaceuticals subsidiary has agreed to shell out $360 million to settle False Claims Act allegations. The subsidiary was accused of working with a charitable foundation to provide kickbacks for its pulmonary arterial hypertension drug. That doesn't look good, but resolving the allegations is a victory.
6. Visa (V 0.23%): $302.2 billion, up 23.1%.
"Visa is everywhere you want to be," goes the old marketing slogan for the credit card giant, and sometimes you run into challenges as a global player. Visa is lowering merchant charges in Europe on non-EU credit and debit cards to settle an antitrust probe.
5. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A -0.33%): $504.8 billion, up 4.6%.
Warren Buffett loves financial-services companies, deep discounts, and global opportunities. Sometimes he can find all three in a single investment. The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Berkshire Hathaway is interested in taking a 10% stake in India's Kotak Mahindra Bank, a claim the bank initially declined. Buffett loaded up on major financial-services companies in Berkshire Hathaway's latest quarter, and he isn't afraid to be a globetrotter.
4. Alphabet (GOOG 0.16%) (GOOGL 0.07%): $724.4 billion, up 0.2%.
Google contractors want a little more respect. Temporary and contract workers were joined by some full-time employees in a walkout, demanding equal treatment for everyone toiling away for the online giant. The protestors say Google only notified full-time hires at YouTube of the active-shooter situation in April, leaving them vulnerable and uninformed of a dangerous situation. The contractors also claim they were excluded from a subsequent YouTube companywide meeting discussing the incident. Alphabet is denying at least some of the accusations.
3. Apple: $799.6 billion, down 0.5%.
Wall Street pros continue to cool on the Cupertino giant. Timothy Arcuri at UBS lowered his price target on the shares from $225 to $210, after a survey of 6,900 consumers worldwide showed that folks are willing to wait longer before upgrading their iPhones. Katy Huberty at Morgan Stanley slashed her price goal on the stock on continuing weakness in China as well as softening demand for the new iPhone XR. She argues that extending the upgrade cycle won't eat into Apple's installed base or its thriving services segment, but it does take a bite out of the juicy hardware sales that investors have come to expect over the years.
2. Microsoft (down from 1): $804.8 billion, up 27.1%.
Microsoft's days of living on the Edge may be coming to an end. Microsoft-watching blog Windows Central says the software giant is building a new default Web browser, ready to move on from EdgeHTML. The new platform is powered by the Google Chrome-based Chromium rendering engine. Microsoft may very well just rebrand the new browser as Edge, but it's still humbling to recognize that the performance and stability issues that have plagued the original Edge browser may have to be fixed through outside solutions.
1. Amazon.com (up from 2): $796.6 billion, up 40.5%.
It's fitting that Amazon should grab the pole position as we're in the heart of the holiday shopping season. Amazon revealed on Monday that it has signed up more Prime members worldwide in 2018 than it has in any single year. It also points out that it has shipped more than 2 billion products delivered in a single day or faster over the past year. This is Amazon's world now.
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.
Investors aren't buying shares of Facebook (META 0.14%) these days, so the social networking leader is doing that itself. Facebook's board has approved a $9 billion boost to its share repurchase program. But a buyback program won't provide an end to the selling pressure. The earlier buyback didn't do the trick. However, it's a fair use of Facebook's money as it tries to win back the trust of both consumers and investors.
This past week's award for sassy marketing has to go to McDonald's (MCD 0.35%) rival Burger King. BK rolled out a clever campaign through which folks can place an app order for a Whopper for a mere penny. The catch is that the order has to originate at a McDonald's restaurant, or at least close enough to a nearby Mickey D's. If McDonald's was smart, it would promote its $1 beverages, eating into one of Burger King's highest-margin products that it typically sells for more than the current McDonald's promotion.
Stocks 11 through 50
11. United Healthcare (UNH 0.69%):$259 billion, up 22.3%.
12. Facebook (META 0.14%): $394.9 billion, down 21.7%.
13. Verizon (VZ 0.11%):$238.3 billion market cap, up 14.4%.
14. Merck (MRK 0.35%): $199.5 billion, up 40.1%.
15. Cisco (CSCO -0.04%): $208.8 billion, up 24.2%.
16. Mastercard (MA 0.44%): $202.9 billion, up 31.5%.
17. ExxonMobil (XOM -0.74%): $328.7 billion, down 6%.
18. Walmart (WMT 0.60%): $270.7 billion, down 3.7%.
19. Bank of America (BAC 0.14%): $249.6 billion, down 11.6%.
20. Boeing (BA -0.37%): $183.6 billion, up 14.6%.
21. Netflix (NFLX 2.60%): $115.6 billion, up 43.2%.
22. Procter & Gamble (PG 0.08%): $230.3 billion, up 2.6%.
23. Intel (INTC -1.51%): $211 billion, up 7.3%.
24. Coca-Cola (KO 0.17%): $209.0 billion, up 7.2%.
25. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A): $246.5 billion, down 2%.
26. Novartis (NOV -2.21%): $202.7 billion, up 6%.
27. Disney (DIS -0.65%): $166.7 billion, up 6.4%.
28. PetroChina (PTR): $192.7 billion, up 3.7%.
29. Home Depot (HD -1.24%): $195.2 billion, down 5.1%.
30. Comcast (CMCSA -0.59%): $170.2 billion, down 1.3%.
31. Wells Fargo (WFC -0.57%): $236.6 billion, down 15.3%.
32. McDonald's (MCD 0.35%): $145.3 billion, up 9.6%.
33. Chevron (CVX -0.24%): $220.7 billion, down 3.5%.
34. Oracle (ORCL 2.21%): $174.3 billion, down 5.2%.
35. PepsiCo (PEP 0.14%): $163.5 billion, down 0.8%.
36. Adobe(ADBE 3.41%): $116.2 billion, up 36.3%.
37. Eli Lilly (LLY 0.09%): $111.6 billion, up 32.3%.
38. Abbott Laboratories (ABT 0.90%): $122.9 billion, up 27.9%.
39. Nike (NKE -0.32%): $116.5 billion, up 21%.
40. Salesforce.com (CRM 2.76%): $104 billion, up 30.6%.
41. China Mobile (CHL): $203.2 billion, up 1.2%.
42. Medtronic (MDT 0.76%): $126.6 billion, up 17%.
43. Costco (COST -0.54%): $98.5 billion, up 20.8%.
44. BHP Billiton (BHP -0.58%): $119.7 billion, up 14.9%.
45. Amgen (AMGN -0.91%): $122.0 billion, up 10%.
46. Union Pacific (UNP -0.66%): $108.6 billion. up 14.8%.
47.GlaxoSmithKline (GSK 0.11%): $90.0 billion, up 12.7%.
48. Starbucks (SBUX -1.20%): $81.2 billion, up 10.7%.
49. AT&T (T -0.75%): $219.4 billion, down 16.7%.
50. Petrobras (PBR 4.64%): $89.2 billion, up 62.3%.
Who's in and who's out
We have one new entry cracking the top 50 this week. Petroleo Brasileiro -- Petrobras, for short -- is Brazil's top dog in oil exploration, production, and distribution. There have been years of political, economic, and inflationary unrest dogging Brazil, but sentiment is starting to turn after the country elected a pro-business president two months ago. Petrobras stock has soared 62% higher over the past year, making it hard to ignore.
A new name doesn't come in without pushing an old name out, and for the second time in the past three weeks, PayPal Holdings (PYPL -1.17%) finds itself on the outside looking in. PayPal is doing just fine, but its return is roughly a fifth of Petrobras' return over the past year.
One to watch
Intuit (INTU 1.93%) is one of the names bubbling beneath the surface on our list. The accounting and financial software giant has appreciated by more than 30% over the past year, but its market cap of $52.5 billion would make it the smallest name on our list.
QuickBooks is the industry standard when it comes to tax software for small businesses, and its Mint online platform is a darling for consumers trying to track expenses and monitor investments. Intuit's TurboTax is also the top dog for folks filing their own taxes.
Intuit has completed three fiscal years of double-digit revenue growth, and it's well on its way to keep the streak going in fiscal 2019. Intuit is also passionate about returning money to its shareholders through dividends and buybacks. It recently gave its quarterly payouts a 21% boost. The stock is beating the market, and it has also blown through Wall Street's profit targets in each of the past four quarters. It's probably not a surprise to see a company that helps folks manage their money and budget accordingly doing a bang-up job of getting its own finances in order.