Fortune has rolled out its annual list of the world's most admired companies. There aren't any big surprises among the top five -- four of them made last year's top five -- yet even the winners in this year's roundup are staring down some big challenges in 2009.
2. Berkshire Hathaway
3. Toyota is in one of the most banged-up sectors out there, with little hope for automakers to celebrate in the near term.
5. Johnson & Johnson's
Then again, victory on a ranked list is always relative. Apple and Google are still growing. Meanwhile, Buffett's company shed nearly 10% of its book value last year, but when you compare that to the 37% decline in the S&P 500, this has been Berkshire Hathaway's best year relative to the market since 2002.
Still, investors in these top dogs shouldn't necessarily be sitting comfortably. Apple took over the top spot on Fortune's list two years ago, by unseating General Electric
So if Apple is following GE and Dell, does this make the magazine's annual list a jinxed honor, along the lines of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated or Madden video games?
Tread carefully, Apple.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wants to know how many babies he needs to kiss before The Motley Fool cracks into the top 10 list. He owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and it deserves to be admired.