Each week, I'm ranking the biggest companies that trade on U.S. exchanges based on their size (market capitalization), momentum (total return over the past year), and recent news. Before we get to the rankings, a quick word on a major player.
This is YouTube's world when it comes to ad-supported streaming video, and some rivals of parent company Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) think the online platform isn't always playing fair. The Verge reports that some Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) engineers believe Google's YouTube intentionally added code to the streaming site to break compatibility with Microsoft's Edge browser. A Mozilla program manager made similar claims about the speed on YouTube videos on Firefox and Edge after an update earlier this year.
Alphabet is defending its platform. It argues that YouTube doesn't add code designed to stymie compatibility and optimization in browsers outside its own Chrome. It fixes bugs as they come up, Alphabet says. One can also argue that YouTube has more to lose than gain if it's not easily accessible to the largest audience possible, though tech giants can be pretty ruthless sometimes.
With that in mind, let's review this week's updated list of 50 top large-cap stocks, kicking things off with the top 10.
This week's top 10 stocks
10. Facebook (NASDAQ: FB): $359.1 billion market cap, down 29.6% over the past year.
The leading social networking website operator may have to pay the price for being on the wrong side of recent data privacy concerns. Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine announced on Wednesday that he will suing Facebook for coming up short in protecting user data. The lawsuit claims that lax oversight and misleading privacy settings set the stage for a third-party app to be able to harvest personal information of millions of users and that the info was ultimately sold to a political consulting firm.
9. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) (down from 8): $313.1 billion, down 12.7%.
A lot of stocks are hitting new lows these days, and that was the case for JPMorgan Chase. The shares hit another 52-week low on Friday. There was an analyst downgrade earlier in the week, as Atlantic Equities lowered its rating on the banking giant from "overweight" to "neutral" but JPMorgan Chase continues to command the largest market cap among financial-services companies.
8. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) (down from 7): $343.5 billion, down 9.2%.
There are some serious legal fisticuffs at Johnson & Johnson these days, but the pharmaceuticals and consumer non-durable-goods giant isn't afraid to put its money where its mouth is. Johnson & Johnson's board is authorizing $5 billion in share buybacks. The news comes amid the legal wrangling related to claims that its baby powder contained toxic levels of asbestos. Johnson & Johnson continues to stand by its talc, but it did also settle one case and lost an appeal to reverse a nearly $4.7 billion ovarian-cancer verdict.
7. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) (up from 9): $242.4 billion, up 15.7%.
The pharmaceuticals giant has continued to post positive double-digit returns over the past year, keeping it on the top 10 despite commanding a lower market cap than several names that didn't make the cut. Drug stocks have generally fared well during market lulls as defensive plays.
6. Visa (NYSE: V): $273.9 billion, up 10.5%.
You can lower a stock's price target and still be bullish on a stock. Piper Jaffray analyst Jason Deleeuw is lowering his price goal on Visa from $191 to $178, but he's sticking with his bullish "overweight" rating on the stock. He's trimming his revenue forecast by 1% in 2019 and 2020, concerned about slowing consumer spending and payments volume given the cloudy global macro outlook. He continues to see the credit card giant as a strong long-term growth story.
5. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A): $472.9 billion, down 3.4%.
At least one Berkshire Hathaway insider thinks the company is a good buy as its market cap buckles below $500 billion. Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Ajit Jain purchased 67 shares of the Class A shares on Tuesday. Buying 67 shares may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the each share is worth nearly $300,000. That's a roughly $20 million transaction.
4. Alphabet: $685.32 billion, down 7.4%.
A big story for Alphabet in recent weeks is the drive for Google to roll out a search engine in China. Google tried years ago and bowed out, given China's censoring restrictions. Stories began breaking that there was a lot of resistance within Google when the company recently considered giving it another go. Engineers and executives are hesitant to cave to China's requests, and it seems for now that Google is bowing to its internal friction. CEO Sundar Pichai told a U.S. House panel this past week that Google has no plans to launch a Chinese search engine in the immediate future.
3. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL): $715.3 billion, down 13.9%.
The anecdotes of sluggish iPhone sales are getting longer every day, but there could be hope within the pessimism. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty concedes that Apple is seeing sluggish demand for its industry-defining smartphone. Total sales for the the 63 Taiwanese Apple supply-chain companies she follows slipped 2.6% from October to November, corroborating the narrative of weak iPhone sales. However, even though the shares hit their lowest point since the summer of last year on Friday, she thinks the stock price's sharp decline is overdone. She's sticking to her bullish rating on the stock.
2. Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN): $673.5 billion, up 17.3%.
One of the past week's biggest sinkers in the top 10 is Amazon. The leading online retailer's stock surrendered 13.5% of its value on the week, through it remains a market beater in 2018. Amazon seems to be holding up well during the holiday shopping season, though a report did claim that the company is lowering some of the fees it charges third-party sellers on its site. Customers and indie merchants may applaud the move, but investors will wonder whether Amazon is facing pressure from rival marketplace operators.
1. Microsoft: $754.2 billion, up 14.9%.
The game is always afoot at Microsoft. Its Xbox platform continues to sell well this holiday season, but diehard gamers are always hungry for something that's faster, stronger, and just flat-out better. The Verge reports that Microsoft is working on two models of its next-gen console that should hit the market in 2020. One system is code-named Anaconda, and it will be similar to the current high-end Xbox One X system but with a more impressive spec sheet. The other system, code-named Lockhart, will be a more affordable console to help Microsoft compete against cheaper platforms. Game on, Mr. Softy.
The rank and file
We'll get to No. 11 through No. 50 in a moment, but first, let's look at some other Top 50 stocks that are making waves, for better or worse.
This was a brutal week for stocks, and you've probably already read or heard that this was the worst week for equities in a decade. Not every stock goes down when the market is at its worst, but just one stock on our top 50 managed to move higher. That was BHP (NYSE: BHP), which climbed 2% on the week. There was no company-specific news for it to buck the general market's malaise, but the Australian giant's natural resources specialty -- it dabbles in petroleum, copper, iron ore, and coal -- often marches to a different beat.
Stocks 11 through 50
11. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH): $229.3 billion, up 7.5%.
12. Alibaba (NYSE: BABA): $339.5 billion market cap, down 24.7%.
13. Verizon (NYSE: VZ): $226.9 billion market cap, up 3.5%.
14. Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK): $194.7 billion, up 28.8%.
15. Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO): $188.2 billion, up 8.6%.
16. Mastercard (NYSE: MA): $180.9 billion, up 16.4%.
17. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM): $288.4 billion, down 18.8%.
18. Walmart (NYSE: WMT): $253.1 billion, down 11.1%.
19. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG): $226.6 billion, down 0.8%.
20. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC): $229.4 billion, down 21.6%.
21. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC): $204.6 billion, down 4.1%.
22. Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO): $202.5 billion, up 4.3%
23. Boeing (NYSE: BA): $172.9 billion, up 3.2%.
24. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX): $107.4 billion, up 30.6%.
25. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A): $235.8 billion, down 9.4%.
26. Novartis (NYSE: NOV): $194.7 billion, up 0.7%.
27. Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS): $155.1 billion, down 4.9%.
28. PetroChina (NYSE: PTR): $186.7 billion, down 10.3%.
20. Chevron (NYSE: CVX): $199.1 billion, down 16.5%.
30. Home Depot (NYSE: HD): $181.3 billion, down 14.7%.
31. Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA): $154.4 billion, down 7.5%.
32. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC): $212.4 billion, down 26.8%.
33. PepsiCo (NASDAQ: PEP): $160.8 billion, down 3.5%.
34. McDonald's (NYSE: MCD): $134.3 billion, up 1.3%.
35. Oracle (NYSE: ORCL): $157.9 billion, down 6.9%.
36. Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY): $107.5 billion, up 27.8%.
37. Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE): $101.9 billion, up 19.6%.
38. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT): $118.1 billion, up 18.2%.
39. BHP Billiton (NYSE: BHP): $119.5 billion, up 15.7%.
40. Nike (NYSE: NKE): $114.9 billion, up 11.7%.
41. Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM): $94.0 billion, up 18.6%.
42. China Mobile (NYSE: CHL): $197.0 billion, down 2.7%.
43. Medtronic (NYSE: MDT): $119.0 billion, up 8.7%.
44. Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN): $114.8 billion, up 2%.
45. Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP): $105 billion, up 10.4%.
46. AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN): $94.7 billion, up 19.9%
47. Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE: TSM): $188.5 billion, down 0.7%.
48. AT&T (NYSE: T): $206.0 billion, down 27.2%.
49. Petrobras (NYSE: PBR): $77.7 billion, up 35.9%.
50. Unilever (NYSE: UL): $143.1 billion, up 0.8%.
Who's in and who's out
We had two new names hop into the list this week, as Taiwan Semiconductor and Unilever made the cut. Chip stocks are out of favor, but Taiwan Semiconductor's $188.5 billion market cap makes it the most valuable company that wasn't on our list before. Unilever is the global giant behind some pretty big consumer brands. If you've ever scooped Breyers ice cream, lathered up with Dove soap, or spread Hellman's mayo on a sandwich, you're a Unilever customer.
Costco (NASDAQ: COST) is one of the two casualties this week. The leading warehouse club operator continues to trade in positive territory, up 4.1% over the past year. However, its market cap of $85.7 billion was the second lowest among the 50 companies on the list. Costco sells things in large amounts, but the same can't be said about its market cap relative to the other heavy hitters on this list.
PayPal Holdings (NASDAQ: PYPL) is the other name that got the boot. It's consistently been near the bottom of the list, and this isn't the first time it's being shown the door. It'll be back, of course. Folks rely on the online transactions processor too much for it be ignored.
One to watch
Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO) is one of the companies bubbling just below the top 50 these days. At $86.9 billion, it commands one of the largest market caps among stocks with double-digit percentage gains over the past year to not make the cut. Thermo tags itself as the "world leader in science," as it provides analytical instruments and other products for research, manufacturing, and analysis.
Thermo Fisher has been a consistent performer. It has grown revenue in all but one year over the past 16 years, and it's on pace to push its top line higher for the ninth year in a row. It boosted its earnings and revenue guidance for all of 2018 back in late October. Thermo Fisher helps companies with their analytics, but it's doing just fine as it starts to ping on the outer edges of this list's radar.
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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. Rick Munarriz owns shares of Apple, AT&T, China Mobile, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Adobe Systems, Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Mastercard, National Oilwell Varco, Netflix, PayPal Holdings, Salesforce.com, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Oracle, and Visa. The Motley Fool is short shares of Cisco Systems and Johnson & Johnson and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple, short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple, short February 2019 $185 calls on Home Depot, long January 2020 $110 calls on Home Depot, short January 2019 $140 calls on Johnson & Johnson, long January 2020 $30 calls on Oracle, and short January 2019 $82 calls on PayPal Holdings. The Motley Fool recommends Amgen, Comcast, Costco Wholesale, Home Depot, Nike, Union Pacific, UnitedHealth Group, and Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.