What to Look for in Caterpillar Earnings

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) is scheduled to report earnings before markets open Tuesday. The Dow Jones Index Average component is expected to post earnings per share (EPS) of $0.96 and revenues of $10.06 billion. In the same quarter last year, it reported EPS of $1.27 and revenues of $12.32 billion.

The company’s share price is up about 4% over the past 12 months, with most of the improvement coming since the beginning of 2016. There have been two primary drivers for the price increase: rising prices for materials, including gold, and rising prices for crude oil.

The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT: GDX) has doubled since the beginning of the year, and the iPath Bloomberg Copper Total Return ETN (NYSEMKT: JJC) is up slightly since January. While crude oil prices as measured by the United States Oil (NYSEMKT: USO) are down about 7.5% in the year to date, the crude price hike that took hold in March pushed prices up by 40% and the residual effect of that increase has helped put a floor under Caterpillar’s stock price.

In 2016’s first quarter, Caterpillar came close to meeting consensus expectations after the company revised its guidance down in mid-March. In its outlook for the year, Caterpillar said it saw some improvement in sales of construction equipment in China, even though “other parts of the business remain challenged.” As a result, the company lowered its revenue outlook from a prior range of $40 billion to $44 billion to a new range of $40 billion to $42 billion.

Caterpillar also cut its profit outlook for 2016 adjusted EPS from a prior range of $3.50 to $4.00 to a new range of $3.00 to $3.70. The cut was based on the lower revenue outlook and an increase in expected restructuring costs from $150 million to $550 million in 2016. Prior to the company’s revisions, analysts had second-quarter estimates for EPS of $1.05 and revenues of $10.6 billion.

By at least one metric the company’s stock is overbought. The consensus price target on the shares is $68.47 and the stock traded at around $78.65 in the early afternoon Monday. Some of that premium may be due to the dividend yield of near 3.9%, but for investors who believe basic materials prices will continue their comeback, Caterpillar is reasonable proxy for the mining stocks themselves.

Caterpillar’s 52-week trading range is $56.36 to $81.38.

Since it reported first-quarter earnings in late April, analysts have mostly been bullish or neutral on the stock. Goldman Sachs, for example, lifted its Sell rating to Neutral and Argus raised its rating from Neutral to Buy.