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Wal-Mart still tops Fortune 500 list

By Chris Kahn
Associated Press / May 6, 2011

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NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. remains atop the Fortune 500 list even as it struggled to keep its US customers coming in the door.

The world’s largest retailer held onto the top spot for the second year in a row thanks to gains at its international stores. The company’s US division has had seven straight quarters of declines in revenue at stores open at least a year compared with the same periods the year before.

Fortune Magazine, which ranked companies based on revenue for 2010, released its annual list yesterday. It was filled with examples of how rising fuel prices are affecting the economy. Wal-Mart was followed by the three largest American oil companies: Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips.

Fortune said America’s top companies profited by boosting productivity and cutting jobs. Like Wal-Mart, they also relied on growing operations overseas. The strategy helped them increase earnings 81 percent to $318 billion. That’s the third-largest combined profit gain in the list’s history.

The largest jump in profit came in 2004, when Fortune 500 companies reported a more than sixfold increase in earnings. Companies that made last year’s list increased profits by more than fourfold.

Fannie Mae jumped from 81st last year to round out this year’s top 5 companies, though the rise was mostly because of new accounting rules and continued support from the government.