More Solid Expectations Firming for Caterpillar Earnings

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Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) already has seen its shares rise almost 15% so far in 2017, and amazingly that is only the 12th best performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average to date. But if you go back to this time last year, Caterpillar’s gain of 33% is the seventh best Dow stock. Two different analysts see more upside ahead.

Caterpillar shares were the best performing Dow stock on Monday. The stock was indicated to open up about 0.8% at $107.50 on Monday morning, but after the open shares were up about 1.1% at $107.80 after the analyst calls and stronger monthly sales pointed to better indications for earnings, due on Tuesday morning.

Caterpillar has reported that world machine retail sales rose about 7% for a three-month rolling period ending in June. Just a few months ago, it was normal to see Caterpillar’s sales trends in the red each and every month. For the June period, only the EAME orders were still down.

BMO Capital Markets raised Caterpillar to Outperform from Market Perform with a $125 price target. This compared with a $106.58 prior closing price, and BMO’s previous target was $110. BMO believes that Caterpillar’s world machines unit has seen its retail sales increase.

BMO’s Joel Tiss cited a cyclical recovery and the company’s current cost-cutting efforts as management focuses on expanding the machinery giant’s profitability. That being said, the BMO call does maintain some caution for orders in mining and energy, while the construction sales have been stronger.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch was the other firm out with a positive call in Caterpillar. Ross Gilardi reiterated the firm’s Buy rating and $120 price objective and noted that mining is almost back to flat and should improve over the course of 2017. While the firm sees energy and electric power as still being challenged, it noted a 10% gain in industrial orders. Transportation was up 15%, the highest growth in over two years.

The Merrill Lynch note indicated that all around dealer sales growth was broadly in line with last month, and the firm expects a “beat and raise” quarter. The analyst also feels that Caterpillar could earn much more than consensus expectations are pricing in — as much as $5.00 per share in 2017. Merrill Lynch’s $120 price objective is based on 17 times the firm’s 2019 projected earnings of $7.05 per share.

Thomson Reuters has Caterpillar’s consensus estimates at $1.25 per share and $10.93 billion in revenues for the June quarter. For all of 2017, Thomson Reuters has estimates of $4.27 per share and $40.54 billion in revenues.

Caterpillar shares were trading at $107.66 on Monday in the noon hour. This stock has a 52-week range of $78.34 to $110.00, and its consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters was $106.61 prior to these research calls.