If you ask the folks who run the Artisan International (ARTIX) fund how they've been able to beat the market over the past 10 years, you'll get this simple answer: "We believe that companies exposed to powerful secular trends can grow earnings faster, and sustain earnings growth longer, than the average company."
In other words, you'll make more money by owning a company benefiting from tailwinds than you will by buying a company fighting headwinds. As investing philosophies go, there's no Bernie Madoff voodoo there. It's simple, it's profound, and it works.
So as you think about buying stocks today, think about this: Where and what are the secular trends that will drive global economic growth for the next 10 years?
There's just one clear answer
Given the recent downturn in the global economy, you may think there are no secular trends that will drive growth over the next decade. But the global economy will recover, and one clear spending priority will get us there. In fact, it's something governments around the world, including our own, have committed to spending trillions on.
Indeed, the global commitment here is so strong that I hesitate to even call it a "trend." It might just be better described as a mega-trend.
What is this mega-trend? You're going to slap your forehead as soon as you read it, because it really is that obvious.
The trend, dear Fools, is …
It's infrastructure, and over the past few months, we've seen the United States commit hundreds of billions of dollars to building it. That sum joins China's $586 billion, India's $4 billion, and Mexico's $44 billion. And that's mostly new spending since June, when Merrill Lynch announced that it was raising its emerging-markets infrastructure spending forecast from $1.25 trillion per year to $2.25 trillion!
That's a heckuva lot of money, and it's being spent not only because governments fear a prolonged economic downturn, but also because many of them look at their countries and see that they're plagued by decades of underinvestment in roads, ports, railroads, electrical grids, sewer and water lines, and many more. They simply cannot continue their rapid economic growth until they put better infrastructure in place. Get stuck in a traffic jam in Bombay or Jakarta, or look at the quality of life in western China, and you'll readily agree.
There are clear beneficiaries of this spending, including public companies that can help you benefit as well. Some of the names, such as Chicago Bridge & Iron
And here's how you profit
Not all of these companies are created equal. Some are cheaper than others, while others have historically been better performers. A few operate in higher-growth markets, while others are friendlier to outside shareholders. Some are pictures of financial strength, while others are trying to deal with illiquid securities or debt-heavy balance sheets.
While all of these companies will benefit from increasing global spending on infrastructure, a handful will reward investors better than the rest. At Motley Fool Global Gains, we've made it our mission to identify the biggest winners from this infrastructure megatrend for our subscribers. We believe we've already found a few of them.
You can take a look at all of our research and recommendations, including our picks in today’s brand new issue, by joining Global Gains free for 30 days. Click here for more information.
This article was first published on Jan. 9, 2009. It has been updated.
Tim Hanson owns shares of no company mentioned. KHD Humboldt Wedag is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. CBI, General Steel, and KHD Humboldt Wedag are Global Gains recommendations. Vulcan Materials is an Inside Value choice. The Motley Fool owns shares of KHD Humboldt Wedag. This disclosure policy just happened.