The economy has never gone back into major expansion mode after the recession. After all, the financial media often doubts the bull market, and the Federal Reserve and other central banks are involved in enough stimulus and quantitative easing that they intend to make their economies expand almost no matter what. If things are so bad and cautious, how is it that just 11 companies are sitting on about $1.1 trillion in backlog?
24/7 Wall St. compiled a post-earnings montage of backlog from major corporations. This measurement of backlog is simply orders that are classified as unfinished work or orders received that are incomplete or in the process of being completed. The reason we focus on backlog is because this is effectively future revenue on the books.
We screened the large infrastructure, services and defense companies to come up with a screen. Some other companies of course might have impressive backlog as well, and some may even be higher than the companies we have represented. Companies had to refer specifically to the term “backlog” in their earnings, otherwise we did not include them.
What you will see is that the backlog often accounts for a year or multiple years’ worth of revenues at these corporations. The total backlog has been compared to 2012 revenues of each company as well.
Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) has recently announced about $100 billion in new orders from the Dubai Airshow. We did not count this in the backlog because we have yet to see exactly how Boeing will classify those orders or at what real price compared to list prices. The reality is that more than half of that will show up as backlog in the next report, minus deliveries made of course. Boeing shares have been hitting record highs, and some analysts expect Boeing shares to keep flying much higher. Its order backlog at the end of the September quarter totaled $415.1 billion, up from $410 billion at the end of the second quarter.
General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has been hitting post-recession highs, and when the company’s earnings came out in July it also disclosed backlog at a record $229 billion. Keep in mind that this is even as GE tries to distance itself from consumer finance, which will be spun out in an initial public offering in 2014. This backlog is in all the heavy equipment, industrial, infrastructure and oil and gas sectors under GE.
International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is always proud to report its backlog with each earnings report. This number has not been changing much, similar to sales, and IBM’s earnings growth is somewhat distorted because of cost cutting and because of stock repurchases. That being said, it is at least a sign that orders in the future will not drop off the cliff, even if its stock is not a fan of the earnings quality.
These three companies above account for some $785 billion in backlog, and that still does not count the Dubai Airshow orders for Boeing. Some of the broader backlog reports were higher than in the past and some were lower, but the references to record backlog should stand out.
Then there are the defense companies, which also have order backlogs in civilian services and infrastructure as well. Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) increased backlog to $78.7 billion. General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD) reported that its total backlog at the end of the third quarter of 2013 was $47.9 billion. Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) showed that its total backlog was $37.5 billion.
There are many other companies with backlog well into the billions, and the following have made additional and significant backlog references during this most recent earnings season:
Fluor Corp. (NYSE: FLR) showed that its consolidated backlog at the end of the quarter was $37.0 billion.
Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. (NYSE: CBI) said that its backlog stood unchanged from three months before at $24.5 billion at the end of September.
Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) showed that its backlog at the end of the third quarter was $19.1 billion.
AECOM Technology Corp.’s (NYSE: ACM) total backlog at Sept. 30, 2013, was $16.6 billion.
National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NYSE: NOV) showed that its backlog for capital equipment orders in the rig technology segment was at a record level of $15.15 billion as of September 30.