What to Watch For in Caterpillar Earnings

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Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) is scheduled to release its most recent quarterly results before the markets open on Thursday. The consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters are calling for $1.79 in EPS and $11.98 billion in revenue. The fourth quarter of last year reportedly had EPS of $0.83 and $9.57 billion in revenue.

Caterpillar benefited from a better global economy last year. Machinery orders rose, and the company should get a further boost from the recent changes to U.S. tax laws. Because U.S. companies can now expense certain capital purchases and a proposal to spend big on the nation’s infrastructure is reportedly on its way from the president’s desk, Caterpillar’s outlook for 2018 remains generally bright.

But the company remains involved in a major dispute with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service over how it accounts for overseas profits. The company runs virtually all sales and profits through a Swiss subsidiary and pays an effective tax rate as low as 4%, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Caterpillar has followed this practice since 1999, but if it loses to the IRS, its back tax bill could be as much as $2 billion.

Excluding Wednesday’s move, Caterpillar had outperformed the markets with its stock up 7.5% year to date. Over the past 52 weeks, the stock is up about 79%.

Prior to the release of the earnings report, a few analysts weighed in on Caterpillar:

  • Barclays has a Buy rating with a $180 price target.
  • Seaport Global Securities has a Buy rating and a $195 price target.
  • Citigroup has a Neutral rating with a $185 target price.
  • Credit Suisse has an Outperform rating with a $192 target.
  • Wells Fargo has an Outperform rating with a $200 target.
  • Berenberg has a Buy rating and a $200 price target.
  • Merrill Lynch has a Buy rating with a $189 price target.
  • JPMorgan has an Overweight rating with a $200 price target.
  • BMO Capital Markets has a Buy rating with a $195 price.

Shares of Caterpillar traded down 0.9% to $167.88 on Wednesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $169.43 and a 52-week range of $90.34 to $173.24.