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12 Growth Stars Shine in Foreign Lands

It's time to go global in my periodic quest for stealth blue chips, an effort I launched in October 2003 .

These stocks would have all the characteristics that investors want in a blue chip -- without the big price tags. So far, I'd call the portfolio of 11 stocks a success: Through Feb. 4, the worst performer since I picked these stocks is Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP), and it had gained 2.7%. The best gain was 107.9% from Penn National Gaming (PENN). The average gain for the 11 picks was 30.9%.

All 11 are U.S. companies, and each will thrive or dive with the U.S. economy. Today I'll pick 12 stocks whose fortunes are pegged to the global economy. I'm calling this portfolio, which I plan to regularly revisit, my global stealth winners.

Where the Growth Is

Why go global now? Simple. It's where the growth is. Most economists think the sustainable rate of growth in the U.S. economy is somewhere around 3% a year. That's great -- for what's often called the developed world. Europe is growing at a roughly 2% clip at best, and some of its key economies are growing at rates near zero. Japan's growth situation is similar.

But U.S. economic growth is anemic by the standards of what's still called the developing world. India and China both topped 8% in 2004 and seem able to keep matching or beating that rate in 2005 and well beyond. Even countries we aren't accustomed to putting in the "growth" category are outgaining the U.S. The Philippines is looking at growth of 5% to 6% in 2005. Even Mexico, with all the structural problems its economy has, is likely to outgrow the U.S. over the next decade.

Those numbers aren't magic or some international conspiracy. They're the result of demographics. In the long run, the growth rate of an economy is simply the sum of the growth rate in population and the growth rate of productivity. Countries with younger, faster-growing populations have a leg up in the economic growth race.

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