Dr Caterpillar's chart says the global economy is going to get much sicker. And soon

With revenues of $72 billion expected this year, a workforce of more than 150,000 and operations at the ends of the earth, few companies are in a better position to take the pulse of the global economy and the resource sector than Caterpillar.

The world's number one heavy equipment manufacturer (NYSE: CAT) delivered record-breaking sales and revenues in 2011 and in its closely watched annual economic outlook Dr. Caterpillar gave an excellent prognosis for mining and construction.

Despite the decline in global demand for commodities caused by a slowdown in China that became apparent early in 2012, at the time of its Q1 2012 results management of the Peoria, Illinois company kept to its estimate of record sales and actually upped its profit forecast for the full year.

In stark contrast to this sunny outlook, Alexander Elder and Kerry Lovvorn of SpikeTrade writes in MarketWatch today that the share price charts of Caterpillar is painting a picture that is decidedly bleaker than the company fundamentals suggest:

CAT has a decades-long pattern of topping out prior to the general market. It topped out prior to the recession of 2008/2009 and the financial crisis. It topped out prior to the mild recessions of 1994 and 1991. It also topped out prior to the tech bubble burst and the recession of 2001.

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This CAT is on a ledge and needs to find a solid footing soon; if it fails, it'll be a poor sign for the economy.

The trading pair says "if CAT cannot hold above its $80 to $85 support area, its downtrend will confirm overall market weakness and signal a further slowing in the economy".

Caterpillar was trading at $82.71 by 2:45pm EST on Monday, down 2.6% on the day in line with a weak broader market.

Image is of a  Kikuyu Hospital in Kenya circa 1945 from the National Archive.