The weakening global economy has taken its toll on all manner of big, U.S.-based companies. For instance, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), which until recently had seemed able to move the earth, has just come through with soft results for the September quarter.

But Fools would be well advised to keep their eyes on 3M (NYSE:MMM), the Minnesota-based maker of Post-it Notes, Scotch tape, and all manner of industrial, health-care, and security products. Unlike many of its peers, the company has nicely bested its year-ago results. And perhaps more importantly, its year-over-year sales growth recorded in the June quarter slid by just a smidgeon in the most recent quarter.

Net income reached $991 million, or $1.41 per share, compared to $960, or $1.32 per share in the same quarter of 2007. And without those good old one-time items, the latest quarter would have reached $999 million on the net line.

Among 3M's seven business segments, five checked in with sales increases from the same quarter in 2007. The two largest units -- Industrial and Transportation, and Health Care -- were in double-digit territory, while Safety, Security, and Protection Services, the third-largest segment, led the parade with a 27.1% jump.

Even in the midst of the unfavorable global economy, 3M managed to boost its operating income margin by 60 basis points to 23.2%, excluding special items. Even more impressive, operation margins for each segmented clocked in above 20%.

Looking ahead, management expects 2008 adjusted earning to come in between $5.40 and $5.48 per share, indicating growth of 8.4% to 10% from 2007. That's but a tiny pullback from the earlier 10% expectation.

So 3M joins Honeywell (NYSE:HON) and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) in maintaining solid earnings in the quarter. As the economy dwindles, however, formerly stellar performers like DuPont (NYSE:DD) have started to show signs of tougher market conditions. Of course, there are still other major industrial companies waiting in the wings to report. Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW), for instance, will tell us about its results on Thursday.

It seems, however, that given the nature of its products and the across-the-board consistency of its growth in revenues and profitability, 3M justifies consideration for a position in the big-cap portion of Foolish portfolios. There clearly are fewer and fewer candidates remaining for that position of honor.

3M has been adorned with five stars by Motley Fool CAPS players. Why not weigh in with your opinion on this company?

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