As luck would have it, lift-truck products firm Cascade Corp. (NYSE:CAE) picked a bad day to release second-quarter earnings, because its uplifting results are being masked by a weaker-than-expected economic data release.

A drop in non-farm payrolls is stoking fears that subprime woes are starting to slow the overall economy. This is awaking the depressive side of Mr. Market, as investors worry we could be heading into a recession. I'm not usually one for macro-economic tracking, but that comes into play here since Cascade's results are strongly subject to the ups and downs of the business cycle -- most of its customers operate in the industrial, agricultural, and construction industries.

North America only accounted for about half of Cascade's second-quarter sales, but that's apparently of little concern to a market rife with fear. Net sales here at home advanced a steady 13%, while European growth was 28%. Cascade has been growing even faster in the Asia/Pacific region, and while net sales advanced only 23% for the quarter, the top line in China jumped 37%. The end result was an overall sales improvement of 20% -- well ahead of analyst projections.

Earnings also handily beat expectations, even when subtracting out a land sale gain. North America was again the laggard, but 18% operating income growth is nothing to sneeze at. It just pales in comparison to the 64% gain in China, the 70% jump in Asia Pacific, and the more than doubling of operating income in Europe.

Not bad indeed, but Cascade's shares are down roughly 7% so far today. Admittedly, Cascade will likely find it hard to sustain the type of growth it is currently posting, especially domestically. But it's reasonable to expect China to continue to lift overall results and, at less than 15 times earnings expectations for this year, the stock could be an interesting, small-cap way to gain exposure to global economic development.

For larger-cap opportunities, Fools may want to check out Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Deere (NYSE:DE), and diversified giants such as General Electric (NYSE:GE), United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), and Honeywell (NYSE:HON). Year to date, Deere and Cascade are leading the way in terms of overall share price returns, but Cascade is handily beating this group on a one-year and five-year basis.

For related Foolishness:

Can't get enough Foolishness in your life? You can check out any of the Fool's newsletters with a 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.