According to McKinsey and Co., there is a mind-boggling $140 trillion in global financial assets spread across the world, more than three times the world's GDP. That's counting the fast-growing $118 trillion invested in the world's capital markets, which includes equities, debt securities, and foreign direct investment. And while the United States accounts for nearly 36% of these assets, smart players are looking overseas for the best growth.

Show me the money
So what's driving the development of global financial assets? For the third straight year, it's equities. Of all of the financial asset growth in the 2005, the sum creation of equity value was a stunning $7.1 trillion, which accounted for nearly half of the total global asset gain. And yes, the Nasdaq, S&P, and Dow Jones Industrial Average all had great years, but they weren't the real fuel behind this explosion. I'll give you another hint -- the U.K. wasn't, either.

With a solid year in its record books, the United States added an impressive $650 billion, and the United Kingdom $550 billion. But the true players came from outside our Anglo-centered sphere.

Japan's equity markets produced an astounding $1.5 trillion in value. The European zone generated $1.2 trillion. And finally, the collective group of emerging markets added a record $2.2 trillion to the table through companies like ICICI Bank (NYSE:IBN). With the rising tide of cross-border investment, this is just the beginning.

World markets: It's not just hype
Naysayers will quickly point to overheating markets and the disastrous historical results of years past. As recently as 2001, investors witnessed the meltdown of the vastly overheated Japanese economy, as evidenced by companies like Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Canon (NYSE:CAJ). And few can forget the hugely mismanaged economic catastrophe in Argentina in the late 1990s.

But today, we're looking at a recognizably different scenario. While the pure value of the global equity market has increased substantially, research through McKinsey shows that it has not been a result of increases in P/E ratios -- meaning, for the most part, that this increase in value was a result of new issuances and greater earnings production across the board, rather than simple increases in prices. In fact, in the European zone, total market P/E ratios have even declined slightly over the year. Across the globe, we're generally looking at a trend of greater earnings power. And you can bet this gives me confidence in overseas investments.

Open the doors
So if this growing reality is as clear to you as it has become to me, you're asking yourself, "Where do I start?" For one great starting point, try our free Motley Fool CAPS service. There are, in fact, hundreds of great international investing opportunities in existence, and it's extremely difficult to wade through some of the not-so-compelling choices to find the true winners. In general, I find that with the right search parameters, just about anyone can find the right kind of investments, which can function as the gateway to these regions of tremendous growth.

Just a taste
After some relatively simple screening and background research, here are four investment ideas worthy of greater consideration:



One-Year Return

Motley Fool CAPS Rating*

Honda (NYSE:HMC)




Grupo Casa Saba (NYSE:SAB)




Infosys Technologies (NASDAQ:INFY)




Companhia Vale (NYSE:RIO)




*Out of five possible stars.

Opening up the world
Apart from the above stocks, simply speaking, my advice to you is to follow the money. And today, you should follow it abroad.

If you're not confident in your own ability to wade through some of the snares associated with investing abroad, like political risk, currency fluctuation, tax issues, etc., the Fool can help.

I also encourage you to check out our brand-new Motley Fool Global Gains investment service, which searches for the very best stocks outside our own borders. You can try Global Gains for free with a no-risk 30-day trial. In addition to two stock recommendations every month, you'll benefit from country profiles, instruction in international market dynamics, a knowledgeable community, and a host of resources that help explain all the currency trickery. Click here to get started.

Fool analyst Nick Kapur owns no shares of any company mentioned, but owns and personally recommends several international companies. The Fool has a disclosure policy.