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Here's one thing you probably won't hear about on the campaign trail. While America's foreign policy is being assailed both here and abroad, U.S. companies are thriving on the world stage, as their "foreign policy" of spreading American ingenuity, know-how and marketing are bringing home the profits like never before.
Whether it is consumer products from Starbucks, Pepsi and McDonalds, technology exports via Apple and Google, financial services, entertainment or oil, U.S. brands are loved around the world — even in nations where the leaders profess to hate us the most. In fact, Americans can thank consumers from Mexico City to Mumbai for the Dow 14,000 milestone that was cracked last week.
The numbers tell the story. In the first quarter of this year, a remarkable 45 percent of the sales made by S&P 500 companies came from overseas — up from just 33 percent before this bull market took off in 2002. And it's earnings from those international sales that have been juicing the bottom line throughout 2007. As Sanford C. Bernstein wrote to clients, sales growth overseas has risen a robust 14.4 percent in the past three years, versus sales gains of just 6.3 percent domestically.
Going into 2007 analysts had expected earnings growth to come in at a tepid 3 to 4 percent, But the blue chips have defied those expectations riding a wave of beefed-up demand, not just in the emerging markets but in Europe as well. By the end of this year, General Electric — a name once synonymous with the health of the U.S. economy — expects that more than half of its sales will come from outside our borders.
For GE and other members of the Dow 30 Club that are increasingly dependent on exports, the decision to become more "worldly" has brought a triple bonus to the bottom line. Not only do these companies have the tailwind of the global economic boom, their foreign subsidiaries typically sport higher margins. Add to that the currency translation magic they enjoy from the weak dollar, and you have a recipe for some turbo-charged results.
Take a look at Citicorp, which reported its numbers on Friday. The giant bank blew away earnings expectations on the back of its international expansion. Not only did Citi post record international results, it posted double-digit gains in its consumer and credit card businesses outside the U.S. compared with 3 percent growth in its consumer unit here at home.
It was a similar tale at Caterpillar which plunged Friday on falling U.S. sales. But that was only part of the Caterpillar story — outside of North America, Caterpillar still expects sales to rise by a whopping 24 percent — as sales here slide by 12 percent.
Yes, American tourists may still be the butt of jokes when they walk the streets of Paris and Milan in their sweatpants and Crocs, but when it comes to exports, U.S. companies travel very well. In a domestic economy coping with the severe effects of a housing slump and $76 a barrel oil prices, we can thank the world for buying American like never before.
Terry Keenan is anchor of Cashin’ In and is a FOX News Channel business correspondent. Tune in to Cashin' In on Saturdays at 11:30am and find out what you need to know to make your money grow and keep what you already have!