Caterpillar Is Dow’s Best Performing Stock, Up 21% in 2016

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 18,000 in mid-April. It has dropped about 3.5% in the past three months, though it is up 2.66% for the year to date. The best performing stock among the Dow 30 in 2016 to date has been Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT), up more than 21% year to date, though down 0.3% over the past three months.

A so-so third-quarter earnings report has weighed heavily on Caterpillar’s share price since before the results were announced on October 25. The heavy equipment maker posted better-than-expected earnings per share of $0.85, but revenues missed estimates, and a lowered outlook for full-year earnings and revenues hit the stock hard.

There was more bad news. In its preliminary outlook for fiscal year 2017, Caterpillar said that “sales and revenues will not be significantly different than 2016.” Negative risk is stronger in the first half of the year, but the company said it is “encouraged that most commodity prices important to our business have improved from the lows earlier in 2016.”

In the company’s earnings announcement, CEO Doug Oberhelman said:

While we are seeing early signals of improvement in some areas, we continue to face a number of challenges. We remain cautious as we look ahead to 2017, but are hopeful as the year unfolds we will begin to see more positive momentum.  Whether or not that happens, we are continuing to prepare for a better future.

The 2017 outlook for mining companies is best characterized as “hopeful,” while energy companies’ outlook can probably be summed up as “volatility continues.” A stronger dollar, reduced demand from China and an almost certain interest rate hike or two will continue to put downward pressure on the companies that buy Caterpillar equipment.

Caterpillar’s market cap of $48.09 billion ranks it 28th of the 30 Dow index stocks. The consensus revenue estimate from analysts for the 2016 fiscal year is $38.8 billion, down more than 17% year over year, and sinking to $38.2 billion in 2017. Earnings per share are forecast to drop about 24% year over year, from $4.64 in 2015 to $3.28, and dropping to $3.24 in 2017.

The last time we looked at the best performing Dow stock in early October, Caterpillar again topped the list, showing a year-to-date gain of 31%. Over the course of a month, that gain dropped 10 points, while the Dow dropped just over two points. That’s not the right direction.

The stock closed at $82.31 on Friday, up 1.3% for the day, in a 52-week range of $56.36 to $89.87. The consensus 12-month price target is $80.50.

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