While international travel may not be everyone's cup of tea with the long lines at customs, language barriers and expensive currency conversions, a little international thinking can do a portfolio good. And given the global nature of today's economy, American investors certainly don't face a shortage of investment choices in foreign companies.

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There are thousands of American Depositary Receipt (ADR) available to U.S. investors that aim to give them exposure to more than 2,000 companies from over 70 countries listed on global stock exchanges. In addition, many companies domiciled outside of the U.S. list their shares on U.S. exchanges, not as ADRs.

Some hail from as close as Canada or Mexico, while others are based in more exotic locales such as Brazil or China. Regardless of the home country, American investors can gain some nice returns with a few international stocks.

SEE: 20 Investments To Know

Let's Look At Five International All-Stars:

Company Home Country 6-Month Performance
Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE:BNS) Canada 2.96%
Cosan (NYSE:CZZ) Brazil 1.10%
Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (NYSE:SQM) Chile -9.30%
China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) China 2.90%
Potash Corp. (NYSE:POT) Canada -9.15%
June 1st, 2012

Chemical & Mining Co. Of Chile A Risky Play
This company makes some of the same potassium-based agricultural products as Potash, although it is dwarfed in size by its Canadian counterpart. Latin American stocks are notoriously tricky places to park one's money, and waiting on a recovery in Chile's economy could be a risky proposition.

SEE: The Fuel That Fed The Subprime Meltdown

What About China?
Turning to China and its gargantuan customer base, China Mobile is the country's dominant provider of mobile phone service. Its shares are flat over the past year, although it appears some American investors are taking note of the company's value.

China Mobile's share decline is a familiar theme with many once high-flying Chinese ADRs, although this $200 billion company has real staying power, fortified by the world's largest population. China has an export-driven economy, and its economic fortunes are intimately tied to large purchasers of its goods such as the U.S. Investors need to be cautious with Chinese stocks, but China Mobile does offer a fair 4% dividend yield and is an interesting long-term growth story.

Banking North Of The Border
Running into the waiting arms of Uncle Sam for taxpayer money to stay alive after leveraging themselves to the hilt and gorging themselves silly on toxic loans and dirty commercial paper, American banks have punished shareholders along the way.

SEE: Who Is To Blame For The Subprime Crisis?

Well, it appears that Canadian banks got it right, and Bank of Nova Scotia is a prime example. This bank has a sterling Tier 1 capital ratio and solid exposure to markets beyond Canada. Throw in a 4.3% dividend yield, and we might just have a bank worth investing in.

It's A Big World With Lots Of Opportunities
Opportunities abound in international markets, and the names mentioned here offer some balance across several important sectors. Stick with proven histories and potential such as Bank of Nova Scotia, China Mobile and Potash.

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