Apple, move over. Saudi Aramco has overtaken the erstwhile consumer electronics company as the most valuable company on Earth on Wednesday. It's a reflection of both the vagaries of the market and the weird state of the world.
Saudi Aramco closed out trading on Wednesday with a market cap of close to $2.43 trillion, beating Apple's closing market cap of $2.37 trillion after the tech company's stock fell 5% over the course of the day. Apple's shares have tumbled 20% since hitting a peak of more than $182 in early January, which had brought the company to a market capitalization of $3 trillion. That ends a nearly two-year run for Apple as the world's most valuable company.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's state-owned, publicly traded oil company has seen its shares shoot up since the start of the year. The company's success comes as oil, natural gas and energy stocks rise; January through March was the best quarter for the sector since 1970, with public companies in the sector up 49% since the start of the year.
Tech stocks are stumbling, though. The Nasdaq index has lost nearly 28% in value since the calendar turned to 2022. That's been accompanied by spending cutbacks and layoffs as economic uncertainty rises.
The fossil fuel industry has been a different story, though, as the war in Ukraine sends oil and gas prices climbing. That's translated to record profits for the industry. The flip flop between Apple and Saudi Aramco is symbolic in that regard, showing the fortunes of two different industries as the world's economy responds to the ongoing pandemic and war.
But it's also not exactly great news for the climate, which needs oil companies to have less influence, not more in determining the fate of the world. Saudi Aramco and other oil companies have raked in billions of dollars in profits even as gas prices hit new highs. An analysis by the Guardian published on Wednesday shows the world's dozen biggest oil companies are planning to spend $103 million every day for the rest of the decade searching for more fossil fuels that, according to the report, "cannot be burned if the worst impacts of the climate crisis are to be avoided."
The record profits will make it easier for those firms to keep digging, drilling, fracking and flaring the world toward the brink of climate disaster.