By David Sterman
NEW YORK (
I'll tell you how you can profit from these titans of industry in a minute, but first, take a look at the five most valuable stocks on the planet.
Joining this exclusive club is quite an honor, but you can be kicked out at any time. GE (GE) was worth roughly $600 billion a decade ago, the biggest company in the world at the time, and now it doesn't even rank in the top 10. Microsoft (MSFT) eventually overtook GE, but has since fallen to No. 6 in the world.Just below Microsoft resides Brazil's energy titan Petrobras (PBR) and the China Construction Bank isn't far behind.
1. ExxonMobil (XOM)The odds are against this energy company retaining its top spot, for one simple reason: buybacks. Shares outstanding peaked at 6.9 billion and have been falling ever since, to less than five billion currently. Management intends to stick with that plan, and the share count could fall below 4 billion in the next five years. Shares would need to rise about 25% simply to offset that trend, and that's not assured because this is now a slow-growth company. (2010 sales are likely to be on par with sales levels back in 2006). Then again, a fresh "Super-spike" in oil prices would give a solid boost to shares. But surging oil prices have a way of creating conditions for a pullback as demand gets choked off. Prediction: ExxonMobil's market value will be less than $400 billion five years from now.
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