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The Marketplace Report: Wal-Mart on Top, Again

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Fortune magazine is out with its Global 500 list, the list of the 500 largest companies in the world measured by revenue. Wal-Mart is at the top. Big oil companies are doing well, and 18 Chinese corporations are on the list. I'm joined by "Marketplace's" Bob Moon in New York.

Bob, American firms dominate the Fortune Global 500 list, and a new government report shows industrial production in the US roaring ahead. Sounds like good news.

BOB MOON reporting:

Well, it does seem to be good news. It is especially good news when it comes to industrial production. This morning the Federal Reserve reports the nation's industrial output raced ahead last month at its fastest pace in 16 months. It was three times faster, in fact, than the increase just the month before. And all that growth, as you mentioned, is filling the coffers of some of the biggest corporations.

Fortune magazine is out with its Global 500 list, and it's no surprise that Wal-Mart, as you mentioned, is at the top of the list again this year. Its revenue rose to almost $288 billion in 2004. But some of the world's biggest oil companies are rapidly closing the gap. The number two on the Fortune list is the British-based oil giant BP; its revenues rose 23 percent. That compares to just a 9.5 percent rise for Wal-Mart. And if you ranked the companies by profits, ExxonMobil would be at the top; it made more than $25 billion in profit last year, but it's number three in revenues. Good time to be in the oil business, though. The top 10 on the Fortune's Global list includes four oil companies, Alex.

CHADWICK: Wow. If the economy's growing so well, any concerns about inflation now? What's the latest there?

MOON: Well, apparently not. There's a report out today that shows an unexpected absence of inflation pressure. The Labor Department is out with its producer price report today, and it says energy prices did shoot up 2 percent last month. But food prices dropped 1.1 percent, and that helped make up for things, and so it looks like inflation is not going to be rearing its ugly head anytime soon.

CHADWICK: And how about the Chinese companies on the rise?

MOON: Yeah. The number of Chinese companies just last year, I should say, was 15; it's up to 18 this year. And the Chinese do seem very keen on doing business. In fact, a writer who puts together this Fortune list says one Chinese company was so keen to make the list it sent a representative from Beijing with its annual report.

And today in the "Marketplace" newsroom, we're looking into whether there should be stronger regulations on food marketing to kids.

CHADWICK: Thank you, Bob. Bob Moon is the New York bureau chief for public radio's daily business show, "Marketplace." They join us regularly. They're produced by American Public Media. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Alex Chadwick
For more than 30 years, Alex Chadwick has been bringing the world to NPR listeners as an NPR News producer, program host and currently senior correspondent. He's reported from every continent except Antarctica.
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