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For the past 250 years, a small portion of the world's population drove almost all economic growth. Now, that math is changing, as countries such as India and China have emerged onto the world's economic stage.
As the surge of economic activity expands incomes around the world, investors must figure out how to ride the world's growing economic momentum while minimizing the risk associated with foreign equities. In this article, the first in a series, we'll discuss how to profit from the global movement of commerce.
Follow Buffett's lead
There is no better source for inspiration than Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) . In his 2010 letter to shareholders explaining Berkshire's purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Buffett observed, "Over time, the movement of goods in the United States will increase." Notably, he could have made the same comment about Asia, where a billion consumers have discretionary income for the first time in history.
One way to follow Buffett's lead is to invest in companies that make money moving goods -- namely, UPS (NYSE: UPS ) and FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) . These companies possess a duopoly in a market with prohibitively high entry barriers, as global transportation networks are neither easy nor cheap to erect. They have demonstrated records of responsible leadership. And both look to the East for growth; FedEx acquired Boeing 777Fs to increase the number and speed of routes to Asia, while UPS applied for a license for domestic parcel service in China.
A second way is to invest in companies that make money moving people. Besides the airlines, which remain unwise investments, to put it mildly, Boeing (NYSE: BA ) will benefit the most from any increase in travel to accompany the global increase in wealth. One step further removed are United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , both of which manufacture and maintain aircraft jet engines. Between these two, I'd pick United Technologies, given its newly designed jet engine that promises double-digit gains in fuel efficiency.
Slow and steady wins the race
The trick is to seize the momentum of global growth without assuming excessive risk. Investing in these companies is a great way to do this. All of them are big, stable names that will be around for a long time. And none of them are resting on their laurels while the global economy moves on by. It is indeed these very companies that make such movement possible.
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