"In some cases, the extreme pessimism around owning equities in Europe has provided access to emerging markets through European stocks with lower valuations," White said.

McCormick & Co., the Sparks-based spice-maker, is a local example of a company with major European operations that is pressing beyond the euro zone. The company, which said it has seen no significant impact yet from Europe's problems, has increased its holdings in India, Turkey, Poland and other emerging markets over the past few years.

"They're looking for exceptional growth in that area," said Bentley Offutt, president of Offutt Securities in Cockeysville. "As far as the Europe factor, unless it goes down the chute along with the United States, I don't think it's a major problem."

But anxiety is still the dominant theme.

Robert Burdette, director of strategic development with Samuel Shapiro & Co. Inc., a Baltimore logistics company that helps importers and exporters, is crossing his fingers that consumers on both sides of the Atlantic will keep purchasing goods.

The Baltimore U.S. Export Assistance Center is getting "quite a few calls" from companies trying to sort through what might happen, such as how much strain might be put on Germany and France from efforts to save weaker countries, said center director Bill Burwell. Even in Germany, the European Union's economic powerhouse, economists fear a recession could be imminent.

And Peter A. Bowe, president of Ellicott Dredges, a Baltimore company that sells dredging equipment worldwide, hopes European problems won't lead to another credit crunch. If his customers can't borrow, they probably won't be able to buy his products.

"Uncertainty is bad for business," Bowe said. "The best thing for the world economies is if the euro zone finds a way to hang together and solve its problems."

Habicht, who runs the spring manufacturer in Essex, just wants to find a company to provide the thick wire he needs to make a line of springs for trucks such as the Chevy Silverado. It's one of the products Kirk-Habicht makes for the automotive "aftermarket," customers who want higher-quality springs to get better performance from their vehicles.

That aftermarket is about 10 percent of the company's business, and Habicht is aiming for expansion as spending slows from military and defense-contractor clients. He wasn't happy to learn from one of his distributors a few weeks ago that his thick-wire supplier had closed up shop.

"We really need to be able to do this heavier wire in order to keep the product line going," he said.




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