It is impossible to imagine our daily lives without technology. We shop online, communicate through social media and order a pizza or taxi using an app. This is also reflected in the stock market. Technology stocks have been excelling for years until 2022, when they suddenly dropped in price. Higher interest rates, high inflation and uncertain economic conditions hit the US technology sector, evaporated billions of dollars and causing many to lose their jobs. But the sector shows resilience, and most US tech companies are returning to their previous form.
Unlike the dot-com bubble at the beginning of this century, most technology companies have long since passed the start-up phase and are structurally profitable with many people relying on the technology offered. In 2000, mainly hardware companies played a leading role in the sector, but now software, chip, communication services and fintech companies are dominant. Only a handful of tech giants are responsible for the sector's outperformance on the US stock exchange. They have gained a dominant position in specific segments of the digital economy. We list the 5 biggest US tech companies based on their market capitalisation (as of August 2023).
Apple has been one of the biggest companies in the world for years. In 2018, the iPhone maker was the first company to break through the $1 trillion barrier. And in early 2022, it even briefly surpassed $3 trillion but could not maintain that level. Currently, the market capitalisation stands at $2.77 trillion. That still makes Apple by far the most valuable listed company in the world. The Cupertino-based company benefits from the continued popularity of the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple watch, apps from the App Store and services. During the Covid-19 crisis, Apple's devices and gadgets were in short supply as people became even more dependent on technology to work from home.
With a market capitalisation of $2.41 trillion, Microsoft is firmly in second place. The veteran company still thrives on the success of Windows and the software package Office. But in recent years, Microsoft has also gained a foothold in the market for cloud services, where customers purchase the software and underlying infrastructure such as servers under a subscription model. The advance in the cloud is doing the company good: its stock market value has increased tenfold in ten years.
Number three on the list is Alphabet. Google's parent company is worth $1.64 trillion on the stock exchange. If the slogan Big Tech applies anywhere, it is to Google. With its mobile operating system Andriod used on 71% of all smartphones sold worldwide, its search engine Google and the internet browser Chrome, Alphabet has a dominant market position. Not surprisingly, Alphabet is regularly involved in antitrust cases. In 2018, the European Commission imposed a mega fine of €4.34 billion on Google for violating EU competition rules. At the end of 2022 and into the beginning of 2023, Alphabet’s stock price plummeted. Investor’s worried about Google’s position in search, with new technology AI on the rise. However, trust seems to have been somewhat restored as the stock has recovered from this fall since.
In fourth place is Amazon. In a quarter of a century, the company has developed from an online bookstore to an internet conglomerate with an astronomical stock market value of $1.39 trillion. Amazon's online shop carries millions of products, and the group has many subsidiaries up its sleeve, such as the supermarket chain Whole Foods, video streaming service Amazon Prime Video and the web and cloud service Amazon Web Services (AWS), among others. AWS was founded in 2003 and it is currently the most profitable of Amazon’s business segments. Besides cloud services, Amazon earns a lot with Prime subscriptions and advertisements. At the end of 2022 Amazon lost half its value, leaving the ‘trillion-dollar club’ and its stock price dropped an astonishing 51%. This was due to inflation and rising interest rates, as well as the result of a post-Covid world. During lockdowns, people were reliant on online retailers, like Amazon. But with the economy reopening, they returned to stores and spend their money elsewhere. The company has crawled back up since and joined the ‘trillion-dollar club’ once again in 2023.
Last but not least is NVIDIA. The company’s rise to fame and fortune has been quick and steep the past years. Growing to a market capitalisation of $1.16 trillion in 2023 from ‘only’ $100 billion at the end of 2019 can be considered impressive. This significant growth has allowed NVIDIA to bump Tesla and Meta out of this top 5. Founded in 1993, and entering the stock market in 1999, the company has been a gamechanger for over 20 years. With its innovative products and business model, the company has outsmarted its competitors and gained the trust of investors worldwide. NVIDIA’s focus lies in building computer graphics processors, chipsets and other multimedia software. Its flagship products, the graphics processing unit (GPU) and Tegra Processor, have changed the gaming industry, accelerated the rise of AI and become the driver behind supercomputing, robots, drones, cars, gaming consoles and entertainment devices, impacting tech innovation on a big scale. As the company continues to innovate, expand and enter new markets, it continues to be a popular stock among investors.
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The information in this article is not written for advisory purposes, nor does it intend to recommend any investments. Please be aware that facts may have changed since the article was originally written. Investing involves risks. You can lose (a part of) your invested funds. We advise you to only invest in financial products that match your knowledge and experience.
Sources: SSGA, companiesmarketcap.com, Digiday Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Forbes