Within minutes of the stock market’s opening trades on Tuesday, Apple (AAPL) had reclaimed the title of most valuable American company for the first time in more than two months.
By around midday, Microsoft (MSFT) had taken back the top spot. And so the day went, the two tech titans going back and forth, until trading ended with Microsoft the leader at a market value of $823 billion.
The positions of Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon (AMZN) have been flip-flopping since the wipeout in the iPhone maker’s stock price late last year. The mantle has changed hands seven times among the three companies. Three of those switches have taken place over the past week as the big tech companies reported quarterly results. And Alphabet (GOOGL) (Google’s parent company) has lurked not far behind the whole time.
The competition reflects the global economic concerns hanging over the markets as well as the changing technology landscape, and it’s a shift from past years. Apple passed Exxon Mobil (XOM) to become the most valuable company in the United States almost eight years ago, and after 2012 it held on, largely unchallenged, for six years.
The company’s ascension was a precursor to Big Tech’s takeover of the stock market. Investors scooped up shares of the largest tech companies, believing their sales growth was unassailable, and by the second half of 2016, Facebook (FB), Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Apple were the five most valuable companies in the S&P 500 (.SPX).
But investors’ faith in Big Tech began to weaken last year. Apple fell hard as signs of a mature mobile phone market, a softening global economy and a trade war between China and the United States raised doubts about the company’s ability to sell more iPhones.
Nearly $450 billion was wiped off itso. market value — an amount greater than all but six companies in the S&P 500.
Shares of the other tech titans fell as well. But Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet have fared far better than Apple and the broader market over the past year, as bets by the first two — and, to a lesser extent, by Alphabet — on cloud computing drove a surge in revenue.
Microsoft and Apple, which has recovered some of its losses since it reported earnings last week, are both valued at a little more than $820 billion. Behind them are Amazon, at $815 billion, and Alphabet, at $797 billion.
In fifth place is Warren E. Buffett’s investment conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/B)(BRK/A). But with a market value of $511 billion, it is far behind.
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