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Brazil bucks global economic downturn

The high food and commodity prices hurting most countries are buoying Brazil, a top exporter of minerals, soy, beef, chicken, and grains.

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More money: High food and commodity prices have boosted Brazil's economy, giving more people the disposable income to buy items such as cars, homes, and electronics.

Mauricio lima/afp/getty images/Newscom

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When Carl's Jr. looked at expanding its international fast-food franchise operation earlier this year, several emerging markets were muted. But after a trip to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in June, company officials made sure Brazil was on the list.

Why? The country's young, meat-eating population is growing, which is important to the American chain, says Mike Stout, director of international franchise sales.

But Carl's Jr. also had other motives that speak to Brazil's newfound economic robustness.

"Disposable incomes are increasing and more and more people are moving into the middle class," Mr. Stout said in a telephone interview from St. Louis, shortly after a two-week visit here. "The economy is growing and inflation is stable. From a business perspective, we love the market."

Add to that lower interest rates and easier credit, and you have the reasons Brazil is emerging as an investment magnet. Direct foreign investment to Brazil doubled last year as companies as diverse as real-estate developer Tishman Speyer and agricultural machinery producer John Deere looked to the Southern Hemisphere as a place to do business.

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