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We hear all the time that China’s economy is the next big thing. So, it’s nice to get some numbers to ground ourselves. A New York Times article does a great job of that.

We know that the U.S. collectively spends more than it makes and China does the opposite, partially because of a close-to-40% savings rate. Here are some slightly surprising raw numbers on total consumerism (remember that China has four times the population as the U.S.):

Automakers are on track to sell 12.8 million cars and light trucks in China this year, virtually all of them made in China (although many are foreign brands), compared with 10.3 million in the United States. Appliance manufacturers expect to sell 185 million refrigerators, washing machines and other pieces of kitchen and laundry equipment in China this year, compared with 137 million in the American market.

Of course, the volume is counteracted by lower prices:


The average new car sells for $17,000 in China compared with almost $30,000 in the United States, according to J.D. Power. This is because Chinese consumers buy more subcompacts and fewer sport utility vehicles. While the Chinese market is one-quarter larger in the number of cars sold, the American market is still about two-thirds larger in dollar terms.

Similarly, the United States market for household appliances is a third larger in dollars, even though the Chinese market is a third larger in the number of appliances. Cooking ranges in China are sold for countertop installation without a lot of other equipment, for example.

Reading the full story, there are plenty of nuances to the data. Still, I appreciate framing my expectations of individual stocks with at least some feel for the greater economy.

How big an opportunity will American companies like Ford (NYSE:F), General Electric (NYSE:GE), and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) have in China? The answer depends largely on politics and regulation but also on macroeconomic trends.

What other data do Fools look at on a country-specific basis? How does this inform your individual investing theses? Let me know in the comments section below.

Anand Chokkavelu does not own shares of any stock mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter. The Home Depot is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.