Caterpillar Is Dow’s Best Performing Stock, Up 31% in 2016

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 18,000 in mid-April and closed Friday at 18,308.15, up 5.07% for the year to date. For the first nine months of 2016, the best performing stock among the Dow 30 has been Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT), up 30.62% in 2016, nearly six times better than the index increase.

The company’s performance is likely down to three main factors. First, Caterpillar’s dividend yield at Friday’s closing price of $88.77 is 3.52%, trailing only Verizon and Chevron among the index stocks. Second, the company has been cutting costs. Third, the rise in demand for gold and other metals has added some much needed demand for the company’s products. In late August, we looked at Caterpillar’s performance in more detail.

When Caterpillar reported second-quarter results in late July, CEO Doug Oberhelman said:

Despite a solid second quarter, we’re cautious as we enter the second half of the year.  We’re not expecting an upturn in important industries like mining, oil and gas and rail to happen this year.  We’re continuing significant restructuring plans, which are designed to bring our cost structure more in line with demand while maintaining our capability to quickly serve our customers when our business recovers.

In that vein, the company recently announced that it is closing a plant in Belgium, eliminating 2,200 jobs. Analysts, always partial to restructuring that increases returns, have been kind to the company by setting some pretty low hurdles for earnings and revenues.

Caterpillar’s market cap of $51.86 billion ranks it 27th of the 30 Dow index stocks. The consensus revenue estimate from analysts for the 2016 fiscal year is $40.06 billion, down nearly 15% year over year, and sinking to $39.54 billion in 2017. Earnings per share are forecast to drop about 24% year over year, from $4.64 in 2015 to $3.50, remaining essentially flat in 2017.

The stock closed at $88.77 on Friday, up 1.5% for the day after posting a new 52-week high of $88.98. The 52-week low is $56.36, and the consensus 12-month price target is $74.41.

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