You've probably heard that two corporate heavyweights, Apple (AAPL) and ExxonMobil (XOM), are fighting for the distinction of being the most valuable company on the planet. That made me curious about who the top ten are, and what lessons could be learned.
To determine the top ten, I used market capitalization to measure the value of the companies. That's simply a matter of multiplying the number of shares they have outstanding by the price of their stock, and here they are:
It turns out that the top ten produced some interesting statistics:
- Their combined value is over $2.1 trillion, or about 12 percent of the U.S. national debt.
- Nine are based in the United States while one is based in China.
- Apple and ExxonMobil have large leads on the others.
- Four are tech, three energy, and one each are retail, diversified, and a holding company.
Will Apple or ExxonMobil still be number one at the end of the decade? Will one of the next eight take over? Perhaps the new champ won't even be a top ten today.
I went back to the beginning of 2000, when Microsoft and GE were fighting for the top slot and Apple wasn't a contender. Hard as it is to imagine now, you may not have even heard of Google at that time. In fact, half of today's top ten weren't in the top ten back then. Further, Intel was number seven on the charts in 1999 -- today, it barely breaks the top 50 at #48.
The lesson here is that the future is very uncertain. For those who might want to put all their eggs in one of these corporate heavy hitter's' basket, it's important to consider that some of these top ten will fall from grace by the end of the decade, and other companies we've barely heard of today will become household names.
Which ones do I bet on? All of them. By owning a total U.S. and total international index fund, I know I'm going to own tomorrow's top ten.
More from CBS MoneyWatch: