The Cat That Roared

I've been watching the business scene for about as long as any of my Foolish colleagues. That provides an interesting perspective: I can appreciate more readily than most the breakneck pace at which the world of business and finance is being globalized.

On Thursday, for instance, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) announced that it would spend about $1 billion in emerging markets during the next three years. Those expenditures will include funding for a research-and-development center and factory expansion in China. Its plans result from a boom in the demand for construction and mining equipment in that country. If you thought that, with the Olympic torch having been extinguished last weekend, China would close its eyes and slumber for a spell, think again.

Indeed, demand for Caterpillar's machinery, engines, and related products is so strong in China and other developing nations that -- in the face of a slowdown in the U.S., western Europe, and Japan -- the company is predicting record sales and earnings for the year. It has so many orders for heavy mining and power generation equipment in Asia that CEO James Owens says his company is pretty much sold out there into 2010. In addition, it's also doing well in India, Russia, and the Middle East.

But it's not only Caterpillar that's moving nimbly around the globe. Fellow equipment maker Deere (NYSE: DE  ) says that demand for its farm machinery is so robust that it'll spend nearly $100 million to expand facilities in a couple of places, including Brazil. And there's DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) , which, in an effort to increase its seed business in Europe, is opening new research centers in Italy and Hungary.

Even the struggling automakers are spreading their money worldwide. General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) has just announced that it'll invest $200 million in a powertrain plant in India. Toyota Motors (NYSE: TM  ) is in the process of spending about $215 million on a plant expansion in Tianjin, China. And going in the other direction, China's Jiangling will build a plant in Poland, thereby becoming the first Chinese automaker to manufacture cars in Europe.

But to my mind, it's clearly Caterpillar that's turning in the most impressive performance amid an uneven global economy that's roaring in some places and snoozing in others. The Peoria-based company obviously is playing well in lots of places beyond its hometown.

Caterpillar has been granted four stars by Motley CAPS players. Are you inclined to push it to five?

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned above. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a world-renowned disclosure policy


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