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Americans Still Careful About Money: Consumer Product Execs

Sunday, 27 Jan 2013 | 11:18 AM ET
Kimberly-Clark Beats Street by a Nose
Thomas Falk, Kimberly-Clark chairman & CEO, breaks down the household products makers fourth quarter earnings, and discusses growth opportunities in China, and commodity headwinds.

Two of the world's biggest household and personal care products firms see the most strength coming from outside of the United States, particularly China and Brazil, top executives at both companies told CNBC this week.

At Kimberly-Clark, which reported slightly better-than-expected earnings on Friday, Chairman and CEO Thomas Falk said, "Our international emerging market business did great. We had double-digit top-line there. Markets like China — our China diaper business was up 50% in the quarter." Brazil was up 10 percent. The company's brands include Huggies and Scott.

(Read More: Kimberly-Clark Slashes Costs in Profit Beat)

The BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) were also a bright spot at Procter & Gamble, which announced profits on Friday that handily topped Wall Street estimates. P&G is behind brands like Tide and Pampers.

"Our developing market business is very healthy," said P&G Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller. "Over 20 percent [growth] in Brazil and India" and high single-digits in China, which he predicted will accelerate. "So that continues to be where a disproportionate amount of growth is coming."

(Read More: Procter & Gamble Tops Estimates, Raises Outlook)

Both P&G's Moeller and Kimberly's Falk, who appeared on "Squawk Box" right after their companies reported earnings, see the American consumer as a bit wary.

"It feels a little bit like the consumer's going sideways," Falk said. "So CEO mom is still shopping from a list. She's still careful."

Procter & Gamble Tops Estimates & Raises Outlook
Jon Moeller, Procter & Gamble CFO, breaks down the company's second quarter beat of $1.22 earnings per share vs. $1.11 estimates on revenues of $22.175 billion vs. $21.906 billion estimates.

Moeller of P&G said, "The [U.S.] consumer is definitely hanging in there. We haven't seen an inflection point in the market growth rates yet, but we also haven't seen any deterioration. So it's reasonably good."

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark predicted commodity prices and foreign exchange fluctuations would affect their operations in opposite ways.

"Commodity costs in 2012 were a tail wind, but we had currency that was a headwind. And they've basically just about offset each other," Falk of Kimberly said. "In 2013, we see that flipping around a little bit" because of pulp and fiber related costs.

At P&G, Moeller said, "There are other tailwinds related to the broader macro environment. Much more benign commodity environment than we saw in the last two years. Certainly a better environment from a foreign exchange standpoint."

Both companies also stressed the importance of how product innovation can create value for their consumers, who can find similar off-brands for less money.

By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere; Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC

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