Caterpillar beats estimates again, delivers bullish outlook for 2018

Shares in the world's largest mining and construction equipment maker Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) were up almost 4% in pre-market trading on Thursday after the company posted results that beat investors’ expectations.

The Deerfield, Illinois-based firm, which is considered a reliable bellwether of global economic activity, reported positive fourth quarter and full-year results and delivered bullish projections for 2018, particularly in relation to its construction and mining-equipment divisions.

Caterpillar's profit in 2017 was $586 million, a $202 million, or 53%, increase from a year earlier.

Sales and revenues for the three months to the end of December climbed 35% to $12.9bn compared with $9.6bn in the same period of 2016.

Adjusted fourth quarter earnings per share, at $2.16, compared with $0.83 for the year earlier period and came in well above market expectations of $1.77. The adjustment to earnings included a $2.37bn charge related to US tax reform, including writing down deferred tax assets because of the reduction in the US tax rate as well as a charge for mandatory repatriation of non-US earnings, the machinery giant said.

Revenues for 2017 reached $2.69 billion, an increase of $94 million, or 4%, compared with 2016. Profit was $586 million, a $202 million, or 53%, increase from 2016.

“Caterpillar is beginning 2018 with strong sales momentum resulting from strong order rates, lean dealer inventories and an increasing backlog,” chief executive Jim Umpleby said in a statement. “Additionally, there are positive economic indicators across most of the world and in many of the company’s end markets,” he noted.

Caterpillar also said it expected an adjusted profit of $8.25-$9.25 per share for 2018, compared with analysts' average estimate of $8.19 to $8.63.

While the company kicked off 2017 with a cautious message, booming sales triggered by improved Chinese demand and a recovering economy in the U.S. — Caterpillar’s home country —, forced it to lift 2017 revenue projections three times last year.

The equipment maker said the earnings recovery experienced last year was driven mainly by its construction division. However, a strengthening global economy and soaring commodities prices have boosted the outlook for other two divisions —resource industries and energy & transportation.

The company’s shares have risen more than 7% since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased 6%.

Before the earnings release, the stock had already climbed 75% in the past year, and it was up 3.87% in pre-market Thursday to $174.85 at 8:35AM ET.