Caterpillar Posts A Loss And Cuts Profit Forecast

I won’t posit that as “so goes Caterpillar, so goes the wold’s economy” but it’s outlook for the rest of the year probably functions as a pretty good if unconventional indicator. In that case, things don’t look too rosie.

From the WSJ, here’s what the company had to say this morning about first quarter results and what it sees going forward:

The Peoria, Ill., company said the economic environment has deteriorated despite government stimulus efforts and a relatively bullish stance on commodity prices. Caterpillar expects the global economy to decline at least 1.3% this year, worse than its earlier expectations.

A great deal of uncertainty exists in the global economy, making it extremely difficult to know how our customers will respond during the remainder of 2009,” Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Owens said in a statement.

The heavy-equipment maker reported a first-quarter net loss of $112 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with year-earlier profit of $922 million, or $1.45 a share. Excluding $558 million in costs for layoffs and plant closings, the company would have posted a 39-cent profit. Sales fell 22% to $9.23 billion. The mean estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters was for earnings of four cents a share on revenue of $8.54 billion.

Interestingly, the company said that the U.S. fiscal stimulus program is insufficient to offset the decline in private domestic demand. It did, however, indicate that it was more optimistic about recovery overseas, particularly in China.

Once again, evidence that despite the big numbers being thrown around in Washington too little is being directed where it would do the most good.

Caterpillar cut its 2009 profit forecast in half to $1.25 a share on revenue of $35 billion. In January, the company said it expected to earn $2.50 a share on sales of about $40 billion.

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