(Market cap article updated with Monday morning stock movements and additional analysis of TheStreet's market-cap poll.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) came into the week beginning last Monday, March 15, having accomplished a neat feat: the consumer technology giant passed retail giant Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.B) for third place among U.S market cap leaders.

There is still a wide gap between Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Microsoft ( MSFT).

Regardless, the most notable market-cap change of fortune in the past week was the bite into Apple's short-lived market-cap paradise. The previous week's rally in Apple shares was banished, and Apple's market share was back down to $201.6 billion, dropping below both Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart.

It was a tough week for Apple, which shed $3.28 from its share price over the course of the five trading days, down to $222.10 at the Friday close. Technology investors were also more hesitant to trade this past week, with Apple's five-day trading total approximately 20 million shares lower than the previous week.

Apple began the new week down by $1.44 in Monday's pre-market session to $220.81.

From a technology sector perspective, the week could have ended worse for Apple. After all, Palm ( PALM) was down close to 30% on Friday with more than 125 million shares traded on Friday alone, after a big earnings disappointment.

Palm shares were down another 6% on Monday morning to $3.76 and Palm was among the most active stocks in early trading.

Apple may still have the technology sector in the palm of its hands -- and remains near a 52-week high even after this past week's slump -- however, Steve Jobs could not keep pace with Warren Buffett or the Walton family.

Berkshire's market cap at the close on Friday was $203 billion, barely changed from the week's beginning, and it seems that the slow-and-steady mantra of Warren Buffett has definitely been reflected in recent trading. Berkshire shares ended the week at $82.06, after opening trading on Monday at $82.17.

Here's a Berkshire Hathaway factoid for you chart-traders out there: Berkshire Hathaway shares have closed between $82 and $83 for the past 13 consecutive trading session.

Berkshire was down early on Monday morning, to $82.06. Still, at a less than 1% loss -- and given its recent trading profile -- maybe not a significant indication of the week to come on Buffett trading.

Wal-Mart, which momentarily lost its edge, was back in fine form to start the week, with a buy rating from Goldman Sachs ( GS) on Monday. It was the only of the three market-cap biggies to make a significant gain over the five trading days, even though it had a losing day on Friday.

Wal-Mart's market cap ended the week at $210.9 billion, and its share price gained almost $1 over the course of the five trading sessions, to close at $55.34. The Goldman bullish call on Monday helped push up Wal-Mart's trading volume also, with almost 20 million more shares traded in the past week as opposed to the previous week's 54-million-share trading volume.

Wal-Mart shares were down to $55.24 in the pre-market on Monday.

Wal-Mart also ended last week with some big news. The retail giant announced that it was again declaring war on grocers and using its favorite weapon:price cutting. Wal-Mart announced on Friday a six-week campaign of slashing food prices and an ad campaign to go along with it, sending food stock indexes down on Friday.

Given the Apple weakness in the past week, as compared to slow-and-steady Berkshire and price-heavyweight Wal-Mart, one might think that investors would not bet on Jobs & Company to end 2010 as the market-cap winner among these three companies.

One would be wrong to bet against Apple. We asked TheStreet readers coming into the week, Which of these U.S. bellwether stocks will be, by year's end, the Market-Cap King of the group?

It was no contest: 57% of survey takers like Apple's chances versus Buffett and the Waltons.

Of course, the cult of Apple investors have a profile in which they might make their investing voice heard over the investing voice of typical Wal-Mart and Berkshire Hathaway backers -- and maybe over common sense also. It could simply be the belief that the iPad will launch Apple back to its headiest market cap days.

Slow-and-steady investors of the Buffett-mold did respond to the survey with steadiness: 35% of survey takers believe Berkshire Hathaway will end 2010 as third largest market-cap stock in the U.S.

It was, surprisingly, price-slashing Wal-Mart -- which extended its market-cap lead over both Apple and Berkshire Hathaway in the most recent week -- that finished a distant third in this hypothetical race. Only 8% of survey respondents think that Wal-Mart will hold onto its market-cap crown by year's end.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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