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Foreign Stocks & Emerging Markets

Feeding Emerging Markets' Growth

These six companies profit as more and more people in rapidly developing countries change their diets.

One of the megatrends in rapidly developing countries is the rapidly changing diet. As people migrate to the cities, earn higher incomes and move on from a subsistence lifestyle, one of the first things they splash out on is food. They buy more meat, poultry and dairy products, sugar, edible oil, processed foods and soft drinks.

Places such as Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Chile made this dietary transition years ago. But these are lands with relatively small populations, so their upgrades from rice, noodles and cabbage to beef, chicken and milk did not roil world grain markets. Remember, (when animal protein displaces rice, corn and soybeans for share of stomach, , there is a dramatic jump in overall demand for grains. This is because it takes several pounds of corn, soybeans and other animal feeds to produce each pound of meat.)

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Now China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia -- with a combined population of nearly 3 billion, or ten times America's population -- are all changing their diets at the same time. China's urban population has swelled to 600 million, and the country's demand for grain has more than doubled since 1995. The Chinese import huge amounts of soybeans and soy meal. But now that more-affluent Chinese are becoming carnivores, the legumes are going into animal feed as well as into tofu and soy sauce.

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Below we pick six stocks that address the developing world's shifting diet.

The rising global consumption of animal protein and rapid urbanization in Asia and Latin America put a burden on the world's shrinking supply of arable land. That makes for a compelling long-term outlook for Monsanto (symbol MON). Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds are more resistant to drought, weeds and pests, thereby raising soybean, corn, wheat and cotton crop yields per acre. Monsanto's share price was recently hit by increased generic competition to the company's Roundup herbicide. But its seed business continues to go from strength to strength. Monsanto trades at $80.08, or 18 times the latest earnings estimate of $4.41 a share for the fiscal year ending in August.

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Steadily rising soybean consumption for animal feed (soybeans are the chief source of protein for pigs, chickens and other livestock, while corn is the main source of calories) is good news for Bunge (BG), the world's largest soybean processor and exporter. Bunge is a globe-trotting American company that's a leader in Brazil's fertilizer industry and holds the strong spot in global market for edible oils. This agribusiness giant's stock, at $65.77, sells for ten times estimated 2010 earnings of $6.51.

To harvest wheat, corn and soybeans, half of the farmers in the U.S. and Canada turn to Deere & Co. (DE) for their tractors, combines, harvesters and other agricultural equipment. Founded in 1837, Deere is the world leader in the industry, thanks in part to a strong global dealer network that helps keep the farm equipment up and running. Deere shares yield 3% and, at $40.54, are priced at 16 times estimated fiscal 2009 earnings of $2.53.

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American sales at KFC and Pizza Hut -- two restaurant chains of Yum Brands (YUM) -- are stagnant. But the Chinese, newer to Western fast foods, can't get enough. Yum was an early bird in China, beating McDonald's to the worm, and now generates 28% of its global profits in the massive Asian country, where it opens 500 new restaurants a year. Yum, which trades at $33.38, sells for 16 times 2009 projected earnings of $2.13.

To wash down this rich food, people in emerging markets are drinking more soft drinks. The Mexican company Coca-Cola Femsa SAB (ADR: KOF), is the leading Coke bottler in Latin America (it accounts for 40% of Coke's Latin American volume) and the world's second largest bottler of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola's share of the soft-drink market in Mexico, which has the world's highest per-capita consumption of carbonated beverages, is 70%. Femsa also has strong positions in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. The stock trades at $41.97, or 13 times projected 2009 earnings of $3.17.

If the agribusiness theme intrigues you but you don't want take the risk of holding individual stocks, consider Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF (MOO). MOO is an exchange-traded fund with a portfolio of 44 global agribusiness stocks, including Archer-Daniels-Midland, Komatsu (the leading Japanese maker of farm equipment) and Canada's Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, which supplies a key ingredient in fertilizer.

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