Congratulations to our friends at ExxonMobil, once again the largest company in the world. I think we can all agree that this is a deserved promotion, given how much more ExxonMobil brings to our lives than does Apple. How much more good ExxonMobil does for the planet. Capitalism, guys: It works.
Reuters explains what happened:
Exxon Mobil briefly overtook Apple as the largest U.S. publicly traded company by market value on Friday as shares of the technology giant continued to fall.
Apple shares traded down 2 percent on the day at $441.31, down from a high above $700 set in September, for a market value of roughly $416 billion. Exxon shares, flat on the day at $91.33, added to a market value of about $416.5 billion.
Apple has closed the day as the largest company by market capitalization since late January last year, when it passed Exxon.
Or, in English: A publicly traded company’s market cap is its value calculated by multiplying its share price by the number of public shares it offers. As of a second ago, here’s what that looked like for each company.
ExxonMobil’s public shares were worth a combined $417 billion; Apple’s, $415 billion. 417 is bigger than 415, so: news stories.
All of this could reverse by the time markets close. Apple is down eight points in trading today; the company could recover that value. It’s real money, but an effervescent, artificial marker. And it’s a reflection far more of Apple’s fortunes than of ExxonMobil’s. (Mashable explains why.)
It is nonetheless discouraging that the company waiting in the wings behind Apple is ExxonMobil. Stock markets are often an indicator of expected economic growth; one buys a stock with the hope that its value will increase over time. Meaning that investors in 2013 see a fossil fuel company as one of the best long-term bets, throwing more money at it than any other company in the world.
Sad thing is: They’re probably right.