Wal-Mart tops global Fortune 500, edges out Shell

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), the world's largest retailer, topped the latest Fortune 500 global rankings of the most valuable companies by revenue, edging out Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A), the Anglo-Dutch oil and natural gas company, which finished in second place.

This marks a comeback for Wal-Mart, which trailed first-place finisher Shell last year. A 40 percent drop-off in profit and a 4.6 percent decline in sales in 2013 hurt the energy giant.

Wal-Mart, which is best known for its U.S. operations but has operations in 26 countries, saw a 4.6 percent increase in overseas sales last year to $140.9 billion. Wal-Mart's U.S. operations, meanwhile have stagnated, with flat same-store sales, a key retail metric, in the fiscal year ended January 31.

Under CEO Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart is ratcheting up its presence outside the U.S. The retailer plans to add as many as 116 new stores in China by 2016 and is expanding in Canada and India, where it plans to open as many as 50 new wholesale stores over the next five years.

U.S. companies dominated the Fortune global list with 128 firms, four fewer than last year, earning a combined $8.6 trillion in revenue last year. The strength of the Chinese economy was also apparent by the 95 companies on the annual ranking, an increase from 89 last year. They posted a combined $5.8 billion in revenue.

Other U.S. companies in the top 25 of the Fortune list include ExxonMobil (XOM), which ranked fifth, slipping from third place. Chevron (CVX) dropped 1 spot this year to 12th place while Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), gained 4 places to finish 14th.

Apple (AAPL) also moved up in Fortune ranking to finish 15 versus 19th place last year while Phillips 66 (PSX) fell three spots to 19th place.

The worldwide economy continues its long slog out of the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression. Economists at the World Bank recently slashed their forecasts for global economic growth to 2.8 percent versus an earlier forecast of 3.2 percent. Though they predicted a slowdown for the U.S. and China along with other major economies, the economy should pick up steam next year with growth of 3.4 percent.

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