Riding the tide of high oil prices, tight U.S. refining capacity and market enthusiasm for its dynamic cash flow growth, Exxon Mobil shares have risen more than 40 percent over the last year, outperforming all of the major U.S. stock indexes and GE by nearly 4 to 1. GE is up just 10.3 percent over the same period.
Exxon Mobil shares, after touching their latest in a string of all-time highs, closed up 2.2 percent at $59.41 on the New York Stock Exchange (search), giving it a market cap of $383.27 billion, according to Reuters data. GE, meanwhile, ended down 0.42 percent at $35.88 with a market value of $379.33 billion.
GE, a provider of everything from light bulbs, mortgages and sitcoms to jet engines and power-plant turbines, held court as the most valuable company for the better part of 10 years, and had been so for the past three years in a row. It endured periodic hiatuses in 2002, 1999 and 1998 when New Economy fervor vaulted Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) to the top spot.
Microsoft is now a distant No. 3 — fully $100 billion behind the two leaders. Microsoft finished down 0.66 percent at $25.48 on Nasdaq.
GE, built over decades through an aggressive acquisition strategy and a determination to be No. 1 or 2 in all of its markets, has held a position among the five largest U.S. companies going back through the 1980s, according to Standard & Poor's.
This is not the first time a company bearing Exxon's name has held the top spot. Predecessor company Exxon Corp. (Exxon bought Mobil in 1999) ranked atop the S&P 500 at the end of 1990 through 1992 when the first Iraq war sent oil prices rising.