FORTUNE 500 2006  
FORTUNE 500    
FORTUNE 500: Shakeup at the top
Surging oil prices pushed Exxon Mobil to No. 1, displacing Wal-Mart, while solid growth worldwide gave a lift to most of the 500.
By Grace Wong, staff writer

NEW YORK ( - Exxon Mobil hauled in nearly $1 billion a day in sales last year, making it the biggest company in the United States and knocking Wal-Mart from the No. 1 spot for the first time in four years, according to the latest FORTUNE 500.

The oil company's revenue and profit were the biggest ever for a U.S. company, while Corporate America overall racked up a staggering $9.1 trillion in sales and $610 billion in profits -- both records.

FORTUNE 500 2006
Related stories:

But even while Exxon (Research)'s sales jumped to $340 billion and its earnings surged 42.6 percent, the oil company's stock posted a one-year return of 11.7 percent, which wasn't very high on FORTUNE's list of best-performing investments.

Soaring oil prices were a big part of the reason for Exxon's revenue gains. Crude prices broke the $70-a-barrel level after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, while oil demand climbed worldwide.

Oil demand was climbing because the global economy was humming.

Anchored by renewed strength in Asia, especially Japan, and a solid performance in the U.S., worldwide economic growth was 4.25 percent last year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

And furious growth in China and India, as well as the long-awaited recovery in Japan, helped swell the bottom lines of American companies, which receive an increasing share of their revenue from operations overseas.

Another big change in this year's 500: The Internet giants Google (Research), Yahoo (Research)! and eBay (Research) all made the list for the first time.

Exxon wasn't the only energy company to benefit from last year's spike in oil prices. A range of businesses -- from pipelines to providers of oil and gas drilling equipment -- dominated the Fortune 500 when it came to revenue and profit growth.

It's no surprise, then, that energy companies took five of the top 25 spots on the list.

Chevron (No. 4) and ConocoPhillips (No. 6), the second- and third-largest oil companies after Exxon, both moved up, from No. 6 and No. 7 last year. Independent refiner Valero Energy (No. 15) jumped seven spots, and Marathon Oil (No. 23) moved into the top 25 from No. 31 last year.

Together, the five largest oil companies gushed about $836 billion -- or 28 percent of the combined revenue of the 25 largest companies -- making 2005 a year for Big Oil to remember.

While a host of problems face the U.S. auto industry,General Motors (Research), the world's biggest automaker, hung in there at No. 3 on the 500 while rival Ford slipped one place to No. 5.

But the financial sector showed plenty of muscle as trading activity picked up and companies went on a buying spree.

J.P. Morgan's (No. 17) sales grew a whopping 40.3 percent, reflecting its 2004 merger with Bank One, while Citigroup (Research) (No. 8) and Bank of America (No. 12) both posted growth in the double digits.

Financial services firms got another boost as investors' nerves were soothed when Ben Bernanke was tapped to replace Alan Greenspan as head of the Federal Reserve.

Of course many blue chips remained fixtures in the overall 500.

And seven of the companies in the top 25 -- Wal-Mart (Research) (No. 2), GE (No. 7), IBM (No. 10), Berkshire Hathaway (No. 13), Home Depot (No. 14), Procter & Gamble (No. 24) and Dell (No. 25) -- also were singled out for their solid reputations on FORTUNE's list of America's Most Admired Companies.

Movers and shakers

SBC Communications showed up under a new name on the list after buying AT&T last year and deciding to hold on to the old AT&T name. The new Ma Bell came in at No. 39.

The housing market was still sizzling last year, helping luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers jump 107 spots to No. 370.

Other big gainers included Apple Computer, which hurtled 104 places to 159th on the list. MGM Mirage got hit by Hurricane Katrina, but the gaming company's sales still surged, advancing 115 spots to No. 334.

Pipeline operator El Paso moved in the other direction, tumbling 141 spots to No. 455 as it completed a restructuring. Increased energy prices pressured Office Max, which tumbled to No. 258.

The company that made the biggest climb up the list? Lyondell Chemical, buoyed by rising commodity prices, which jumped 217 places to No. 121.

The company that stumbled the most? Trucker CNF, which plunged 142 spots to No. 481.

-- FORTUNE senior writer Ellen McGirt contributed to this report. Top of page

Next: See the 2006 FORTUNE 500

FORTUNE 1000 Companies in Your State

Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.
Manage alerts | What is this?