MasterCard (NYSE:MA) is at the center of a macro trend that is tough to ignore: the death of paper money. Per-swipe transactions continue to rise even in America, since as much as 40% of transactions in the U.S. still take place with cash or paper checks. But the real growth for MasterCard is coming from emerging markets, where a rising middle class is getting access to bank accounts and debit cards. Remember, MasterCard is not a debt issuer, but more of a toll-taker on the e-commerce superhighway. Every time you make a purchase, MasterCard gets paid — and it’s hard to believe that the number of people using plastic is going to decline anytime soon.
Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN) and its iconic pitchman William Shatner have taken over the travel business with an innovative “name your own price” model for airfares, hotels, rental cars and a host of other services. However, the real growth isn’t at home from people booking trips to Florida to see the grandparents — it’s internationally. PCLN offers hotel room reservations in about 100 countries and more than 40 languages. That has allowed for big growth despite the fact that Priceline is competing with internet travel sites like Kayak that have popped up in recent years. Profits are on track to double from 2010 to 2011, and grow an additional 25% in 2012.
W.W. Grainger (NYSE:GWW) is a rather un-sexy company when compared to the others on this list. It is engaged in “facilities maintenance,” a glorified way to refer to distributing pumps, tools, motors and other gear that allow businesses to … well, do business. That might not sound exciting, but a 60% surge in GWW stock since the summer is worth taking note of. The company has seen eight consecutive quarters of year-over-year revenue increases. EPS numbers jumped 29% from 2010 to 2011 and are set to surge another 17% in 2012. W.W. Grainger is expanding in China and Panama, too, which could add even more momentum to shares. You might want to wait for a pullback after the red-hot run recently, however.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. Write him at editor@investorplace??.com, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook. Jeff Reeves holds a position in Alcoa, but no other publicly traded stocks.