The world’s most valuable companies from 2000 to 2022

The largest stocks in today’s market have come a long way from their modest market caps at the turn of the millennium. The big names of old are fading fast.

| More on:
A young woman sits on her lounge looking pleasantly surprised at what she's seeing on her laptop screen as she reads about the South32 share price

Image source Getty Images

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Key points

  • General Electric and Exxon Mobil were once the biggest businesses on the planet 
  • Today, their dominating greatness is just a fading memory 
  • The new rulers will also be replaced someday 

Do you remember when General Electric was the largest company in the world? It really wasn’t terribly long ago. The industrial giant wrested the market-cap crown away from software titan Microsoft when the dot-com bubble popped.

GE held on to the title with an iron fist for nearly two years:

GE Market Cap Chart

GE MARKET CAP DATA BY YCHARTS.

Exxon takes over

By the summer of 2002, Microsoft had recuperated while oil producer ExxonMobil rose through the ranks. The top spot shifted between these three companies over the next four years, and then Exxon controlled the crown between 2006 and 2011:

GE Market Cap Chart

GE MARKET CAP DATA BY YCHARTS.

At this point, Apple had turned its iPhone and iPad product lines into a world-class cash machine. Apart from a brief skirmish with Exxon in 2013, Cupertino monopolized the market cap throne for seven years:

GE Market Cap Chart

GE MARKET CAP DATA BY YCHARTS.

What’s new?

And now we’re in the modern era. Apple is still the monarch of the market cap, but the title always seems to be within reach of Microsoft and e-commerce veteran Amazon. Online services expert and Google parent Alphabet has also joined the fray every now and then, but never quite managed to reach the top spot:

GE Market Cap Chart

GE MARKET CAP DATA BY YCHARTS.

What have we learned from these charts?

In two decades and change, we’ve seen the business world shift away from oil producers and industrial-engineering companies while software, online services, and consumer electronics soared higher and higher. Amazon and Apple were mere minnows at the start of this adventure, with respective market caps of $27 billion and $17 billion at the turn of the millennium.

Over the same period, the early leaders have fallen out of sight. These days, General Electric and ExxonMobil are so far behind that they don’t even belong in this conversation anymore. (The bigger they are, the harder they fall.)

Come back in another couple of decades, and the list of the market’s largest market caps will probably look very different once more. Not even Apple and Microsoft are immune to market shifts and new challengers in the long run. The biggest winners in this millennium weren’t the largest blue-chip companies at the start of the race, but the smaller and hungrier upstarts that were still piecing together their long-term business plans:

AAPL Total Return Price Chart

AAPL TOTAL RETURN PRICE DATA BY YCHARTS.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has recommended the following options: long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

More on International Stock News

A circle of hands from business leads cupping a green leaf in soil, indicating ASX companies embracing the concept of ESG and sustainable business practices
International Stock News

Investors are leaning away from ESG investing, but here’s why you shouldn’t follow the crowd

Don't lose sight of the long-term benefits of ESG.

Read more »

a smiling woman sits at her computer at home with a coffee alongside her, as if pleased with her investments.
International Stock News

3 great foreign companies to invest in right now

There is a world of opportunity in international stocks.

Read more »

man and woman looking at bitcoin mining
International Stock News

This company profited $2.6 billion from crypto. What is it investing in now?

Intercontinental Exchange made some whopper profits from crypto investments. Its recent investment in Black Knight could completely transform the company.

Read more »

happy business people celebrate, share rise, record price, increase
International Stock News

2 cryptos that could lead the market recovery

Bitcoin and Ethereum are uniquely positioned to lead the entire crypto market higher in 2022.

Read more »

A young couple look upset as they use their phones.
International Stock News

Not a risk taker? Here’s how that may cost you in retirement

With no risk comes little to no reward.

Read more »

woman working on tablet
International Stock News

3 top US tech stocks that could help make you rich by retirement

Buying and holding these three technology stocks can help grow your portfolio by leaps and bounds.

Read more »

A piggy bank blasts off into the sky.
International Stock News

Why cryptocurrency EOS soared 19% while the market took a breather today

The move follows a positive court ruling over a settlement tied to allegations of unregistered security sales.

Read more »

A worried man holds his head and look at his computer.
International Stock News

Why Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin are slumping today

High correlation to equity markets is back, with the price action for major cryptos closely tracking major indices.

Read more »