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Takeaways From the New Fortune 500 List

 

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This year's Fortune 500 list, which ranks companies by their gross revenues, hit newsstands today and business writers are chewing it over. In 2010 Wal-Mart topped the list, dethroning oil titan Exxon Mobil. Here are the lessons journalists are teasing out:

  • Profits Up—Revenues Down, notices Daniel Carty at CBS News: "2009 profits were up a remarkable $391 billion - more than three times greater than the previous year. But the windfall wasn't due to greater sales, as revenues actually fell 8.7 percent. Cost-cutting was the preferred strategy and companies cut 3.2 percent of its workforce to finish in the black."
  • Wal-Mart Is Unstoppable, writes Pallavi Gogoi at Daily Finance: "Wal-Mart's results... are still impressive given the economic environment. Last year, companies that served consumers suffered deeply -- especially retailers. Many retailers were forced to shutter stores as sales fell, and others disappeared altogether. Yet Wal-Mart's low prices attracted millions of worried Americans, allowing it to buck the downward trend and grow sales."
  • This Explains the Jobless Recovery, writes Annie Lowrey at The Washington Independent:

Wondering what’s behind those recent jobless recovery numbers?

1. Fortune 500 companies tripled their profits to $391 billion in 2009.

2. They also slashed their payrolls by more than 800,000 jobs.

  • A Big Year for Health Care Companies and Tech, writes Shawn Tully at Fortune: "The star of 2009 is undoubtedly health care. The sector's earnings jumped to an all-time high of $92 billion, placing it second behind tech at $94 billion. Health-care earnings rose by $23 billion, or 33%. It wasn't the band of new arrivals that accounted for most of the bounty, but extremely strong earnings from two groups, one surprising -- medical insurers -- and the other more predictable, pharmaceuticals."
  • GM's Hurting, writes Sarah Rabil at BusinessWeek observes: "GM, the Detroit-based automaker that reorganized in a government-aided bankruptcy last year, fell to 15th place from 6th, the first time since the list began in 1955 that the company didn’t make the top 10, according to Fortune."

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