What Investors Can Learn from the Biggest Companies of the Past 20 Years

How long can Apple expect to hold the top spot?

Is Apple, the world's most valuable company, on its way toward an unprecedented market capitalization of $1 trillion? Or is Mapplegate, the fiasco surrounding the error-filled map app on Apple's new iPhone, a sign that the aura surrounding Apple and its seemingly bulletproof stock is starting to dissipate. If Apple were to fall from its lofty perch, it certainly wouldn't be a shock, because, let’s face it, it's tough to hold on to the top spot. Companies go in and out of fashion. Stock prices rise and fall. Consider that Microsoft became number one in September 1998 when its market value was a lofty $282 billion; as of October 3, it's valued at $250 billion. In September 1993, General Electric hit the alpha-spot with $84 billion; its current market cap is $242 billion.

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Nellie S. Huang
Senior Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Nellie joined Kiplinger in August 2011 after a seven-year stint in Hong Kong. There, she worked for the Wall Street Journal Asia, where as lifestyle editor, she launched and edited Scene Asia, an online guide to food, wine, entertainment and the arts in Asia. Prior to that, she was an editor at Weekend Journal, the Friday lifestyle section of the Wall Street Journal Asia. Kiplinger isn't Nellie's first foray into personal finance: She has also worked at SmartMoney (rising from fact-checker to senior writer), and she was a senior editor at Money.