Caterpillar Is Best Performing Dow Stock of 2016 — Up 36%

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The winner as the best performing component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for 2016 is Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT), which up 36.46% to $92.74. It barely edged out UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE UNH), which was up 36.04% to $109.62. The Dow rose 13.42% to 19,762.6, having never breached the magic 20,000 level.

Caterpillar, the heavy industry manufacturer, has had a poor year financially, so the reasons for the improvement are not obvious.

For the third quarter, the company announced:

Caterpillar Inc. profit per share of $0.48 for the third quarter of 2016, a decrease from $0.94 per share in the third quarter of 2015. Excluding restructuring costs, profit per share was $0.85, down from $1.05 per share in the third quarter of 2015. Third-quarter 2016 sales and revenues of $9.2 billion were down 16 percent from $11.0 billion in the third quarter of 2015.

“Economic weakness throughout much of the world persists and, as a result, most of our end markets remain challenged. In North America, the market has an abundance of used construction equipment, rail customers have a substantial number of idle locomotives, and around the world there are a significant number of idle mining trucks,” said Caterpillar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman. “However, there were a few bright spots this quarter. Both the construction industry and our machine market position improved in China. Most commodity prices, while low, seem to have stabilized. Parts sales have increased sequentially in each of the last two quarters. Our machine market position and quality remain at high levels and our work on Lean and restructuring are continuing to help us lower costs.

Obviously, a company in decline, the only promise of which in 2016 has been cost cutting.

The answer to the riddle about the increase is Donald Trump, primarily. His broad statements about huge infrastructure investment and weakening of regulations of oil and coal exploration have given Wall Street encouragement that Caterpillar will enjoy a windfall of business. Coupled with the slashing of its costs, revenue improvement should add to margins.

Caterpillar shares have stayed at a high level since the election. Legislation that supports its sales could take the stock higher again in 2017.