The word "dichotomy" is a somewhat stuffy member of our vernacular, but it fits here: On the one hand, we're treated to an almost daily drumbeat of negative U.S. economic news. On the other, earnings reports have been almost surprisingly strong for an array of large U.S. companies. That, Mr. Webster would tell you, is a perfect example of a dichotomy.

As last week came to a close, New Jersey-based technology and manufacturing conglomerate Honeywell International (NYSE: HON) told us that its net earnings had increased by about 22% in the latest quarter to $643 million, or $0.85 per share. That's up from $526 million, or $0.66 a share, in the first quarter of 2007. Sales for the period were up 11% to $8.9 billion, vs. $8 billion in the earlier period.

Honeywell, whose revenues are about evenly divided between the U.S. and overseas, managed to gin out sales growth in all its segments -- aerospace, automation and control solutions, specialty materials, and transportation systems. This achievement was particularly impressive, since it occurred in the face of soft demand for some housing-related manufactured goods in the U.S.

Honeywell CEO Dave Cote attributed the company's strong results, including its "double-digit sales, EPS, and free cash flow increases" to "our global reach and diversified portfolio of businesses," which "helped to drive organic sales growth across all regions."

For my money, it's rather impressive that Honeywell easily bested its fellow conglomerate General Electric (NYSE: GE), which had previously disappointed observers with its earnings results. But then, GE's shortfall was primarily the work of its financing segment, an albatross not shared by Honeywell.

Beyond that, Honeywell was joined on Friday by Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), which was similarly buoyed by its international sales results. And then, shifting gears as to industry, there was eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), which also benefited from overseas strength. Going forward, we'll look to quarterly results from the likes of international cement manufacturer Cemex (NYSE: CX), along with Caterpillar's fellow equipment manufacturer Deere (NYSE: DE), for a still more definitive read on the U.S. and world's economies.

Beyond that, it clearly appears that Honeywell is capable of gaining momentum even in bleak economic times. It seems that makes it worthy of attention from Fools everywhere.

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The closest Fool contributor David Lee Smith has to an investment in any of the companies listed is his "I Brake for Green Tractors" T-shirt. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy.