(By Street Authority) The United States is unlike any other nation on the planet. It's the largest economy. It's home to the world's most innovative entrepreneurs. But the simple fact is that the headiest days of our growth are behind us. It's simply the law of large numbers.
With an economy in excess of $15 trillion, growing more than a few percent each year is a major undertaking.
Think back on what we've seen over the past few years. The U.S. government has spent trillions in an effort to stimulate the economy. The Federal Reserve has spent trillions more. Interest rates have been slashed to zero.
And yet, the U.S. economy grew a meager 2.8% in 2011. Not bad, but nowhere near the top of the list when it comes to gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Qatar topped this list with 17.0% growth. Panama saw a 7.4% rise in GDP... South Korea, 4.5%... Poland, 3.8%... and Chile boosted its GDP at a 5.9% annual rate.
But to me, GDP numbers alone don't tell the entire story. I prefer to know what companies are actually seeing. To investors like you and me, that's the real story.
For example, in a recent quarter, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) saw sales in North America soar 63% year-over-year... but abroad, sales were up 95%.
It's the same for credit card giant MasterCard (NYSE: MA). The company saw the amount charged on its cards rise 9.9% in the United States, but 19.9% abroad.
Even McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) saw sales up more than 12% in its international markets during a recent quarter, compared with less than 3% growth at home.
Just imagine what companies focused solely on international markets are doing...
Take AmBev (NYSE: ABV), for instance. This company's business couldn't be simpler -- it distributes beer and soda in Brazil and throughout South America. It's actually the fourth-largest beer producer in the world.
During the past five years, sales have grown 101% and profits have risen 301%.