What's Boosting Caterpillar Stock to a New High after Earnings

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) reported first-quarter 2017 results before markets opened Tuesday. The heavy equipment firm posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.28 on revenues of $9.82 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported adjusted EPS of $0.64 on revenues of $9.46 billion. First-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates for EPS of $0.62 and $9.27 billion in revenues.

On a GAAP basis, Caterpillar posted net profit of $192 million in the first quarter, including a $752 restructuring charge related to the closure of the company’s plant in Belgium. Including a planned consolidation in the United States, Caterpillar expects to spend $1.25 billion on restructuring during the fiscal year.

Increased operating profit was primarily due to higher sales volume, with nearly half of that increase due to a favorable mix of products. Lower period costs, improved variable manufacturing costs and favorable price realizations also contributed to the increase in operating profit. About half of the variable manufacturing cost improvement was from lower material costs, and price realization was favorable in Construction Industries.

At the end of the first quarter, Caterpillar’s order backlog totaled about $14.8 billion. This represents an increase of about $2.7 billion from the end of 2016. The increase came in all segments, but primarily in Energy & Transportation and Construction Industries.

Caterpillar has raised its 2017 revenue forecast from $36 billion to $39 billion ($37.5 billion at the midpoint of the range) to a new range of $38 billion to $41 billion (midpoint of $39.5 billion). The profit outlook soared from an estimated adjusted EPS of $2.90 to a new estimate of $3.75.

CEO Jim Umpleby said:

Our team delivered outstanding operational performance and, for the first time in more than two years, same quarter sales and revenues increased. We’re also benefiting from our significant cost reduction and restructuring actions, which have improved cash flow and further strengthened an already healthy balance sheet. With this momentum, we will continue to focus investment on improving our competitive position by investing in new technologies and improving our productivity to deliver profit growth and shareholder value.

Caterpillar’s shares jumped more than 5% in premarket trading to $101.80, above the 52-week range of $69.04 to $99.46. The 12-month consensus analyst price target was $93.52 ahead of the report.