Caterpillar’s Latest Earnings Report Is More Good News For US Manufacturing

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Caterpillar Inc. easily surpassed Wall Street expectations for fourth quarter earnings, the latest sign that rising domestic demand and global economic growth augur good things for U.S. manufacturing in the coming year.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based maker of heavy equipment — the world’s largest — rode a 35 percent surge in sales to adjusted fourth quarter profits of $2.16 per share, compared to expected earnings of $1.79 per share, according to Reuters. Its top-line sales were $12.9 billion, nearly $1 billion higher than Wall Street expectations.

Looking ahead, the company expects an adjusted profit of $8.25 – $9.25 per share for all of 2018, versus the $8.19 average estimate of analysts surveyed by Reuters.

The bright outlook for Caterpillar, widely seen as a bellwether for the broader economy, is a stark turnaround from where the company found itself just two years ago. In 2016, low energy prices sunk demand for Caterpillar’s oil and gas mining equipment, while soft growth in emerging and commodities markets torpedoed sales in the firm’s transportation and resource segments.

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Now, Caterpillar is riding high on the strength of rising oil and commodity prices, plus stronger domestic demand. Many industry analysts expect the factors boosting Caterpillar’s performance to lift the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole.

“Caterpillar’s results showed strength across the board in nearly every industry for the first time, which indicated coordinated and synchronized macroeconomic growth,” Larry De Maria, an analyst at William Blair & Co., told Bloomberg. “It’s a good harbinger for overall economic activity.”

Caterpillar stock surged 26 percent in the fourth quarter, and 70 percent throughout all of 2017 — the company’s largest annual share price gain since 2003. Last quarter, its shares were the second-best performer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, according to Bloomberg.

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