The World's Surprising Economic Superpower
The annual Fortune 500 rankings have become an iconic measure of corporate influence in the U.S. business world. But just as major league baseball's World Series stacks the deck in favor of U.S. baseball teams, the Fortune 500 is limited to U.S. companies. And just as the United States failed to end up at the top in this year's (genuinely global) World Baseball Classic, the relative position of U.S. companies changes once you step onto the global playing field. The United States still dominates the Fortune Global 500 with 140 U.S companies, its 30% share equaling roughly the United States' share of the global economy. That's twice as many as its nearest competitor, Japan, with 68 companies on the list. But U.S. dominance is clearly eroding. Most notably, a U.S. company is no longer at #1, with Royal Dutch Shell displacing U.S.-based Wal-Mart as the world's largest company with revenues of $458 billion. That's the first time a non-U.S. company has been at the head of the list since 1996. The 140 U.S. companies that did make the list combine for the lowest number since Fortune magazine began compiling the list in 1995. Recall that 2008 was particularly unkind to the United States. Within the span of a remarkable 12 months, household names like AIG, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual all disappeared from the list. The Fortune Global 500: BRICs Rising?
The inevitable rise of the BRIC economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- is now taken as holy writ among the U.S. business press. With the BRIC countries now boasting more than a quarter of the world's land area and more than 40% of the world's population, it's now considered inevitable that, in terms of size, speed, and directional flow, the transfer of global wealth and economic power is shifting from West to East. While it's true that the BRICs offer some of the best investment opportunities, in terms of companies on the...
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