ExxonMobil overtook General Electric as the world's biggest company by market value, underscoring the emergence of energy stocks as leaders amid surging oil prices.

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ExxonMobil overtook General Electric as the world’s biggest company by market value, underscoring the emergence of energy stocks as leaders amid surging oil prices.

ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded oil producer, was valued at $383.3 billion as of yesterday’s close. The figure surpassed the $379.3 billion value of GE, whose 11 units include financial services, health care and the NBC television network.

“Exxon mirrors the importance of the energy industry,” said Forrest Mervine, who helps manage $1.4 billion at Philadelphia Corp. “That’s going to be the case for a while until alternate sources of energy come along.”

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The change in leadership took place after ExxonMobil’s shares rallied 15 percent this month, compared with GE’s 0.7 percent decline. GE led in market value by $49 billion at the end of January.

Yesterday, Exxon shares climbed $1.28 to $59.41, while GE fell 15 cents to $35.88. Exxon said it more than replaced production last year with added reserves in Qatar, West Africa, Europe and the Caspian region.

GE and Microsoft traded positions as No. 1 and No. 2 by market value during much of the past seven years.

Microsoft’s market value climbed to $604 billion by the end of 1999, when it represented almost 5 percent of the S&P 500. GE followed at $507 billion, amounting to 4.1 percent of the index, according to S&P. As of yesterday, Microsoft trails ExxonMobil and GE with a market value of $277.2 billion.

Top 5 companies

By market capitalization

1. ExxonMobil:
$383.3 billion

2. General Electric:
$379.3 billion

3. Microsoft:
$277.2 billion

4. Citigroup:
$252.3 billion

5. BP:
$226.7 billion

Source: Bloomberg News

Energy shares are the Standard & Poor’s 500 index’s best performers for the second straight year as crude-oil futures approach $50 a barrel in New York. Their industry index has gained 16 percent in 2005 after rallying 29 percent in 2004, when oil climbed to a record $55.67 on Oct. 25.

Oil and gas producers account for 8.4 percent of the S&P 500’s value, up from 5.9 percent in 2001, when crude touched a low of $17.45. Financial-service companies are the largest group at 20 percent.

“Under the management of Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil’s goal is to be the most efficient and most profitable company,” said Tom Cirigliano, a spokesman. Being the largest “is just icing on cake,” he said.

“We focus on building and operating the businesses that produce the earnings growth that increases the value of the company for corporate customers and for shareholders,” said David Frail, a GE spokesman. “We don’t focus on rank.”