Caterpillar Sales Trends Much Worse in North America Than in Asia

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) is caught between a rock and a hard place in the COVID-19 recession. The bad news is that even its domestic operations are suffering. The good news is that the declines in Asia seem to be abating, as they were 60 days ahead of the United States in their lockdowns and reopenings.

Total machine sales fell by 22% for the three-month period ending in April. That compares with declines of 17% for the three-month period ending in March and 11% in the three-month period ending in February.

In North America, its retail sales of machines fell by 27% in April, after a 20% decline in March and after being down 12% in February. Asia Pacific sales were down 17% in March. Latin America sales slid by 28% in April. EAME sales were down just 15%.

Caterpillar’s industry-by-industry and region-by-region reports did at least have one thing in common. No single region or sector was positive. EAME’s resource industry sales were flat, and Power Generation was down just 5%, but all other reports were negative by double-digits.

On an industry-by-industry basis, construction equipment was down 21% in the April period, which was worse than the drops of 18% in March and 11% in February. North American construction sales were down 26% in April. Caterpillar’s global resources industries saw its retail sales fall 24% in April. Energy and transportation sales were down 19% in April.

Caterpillar is off to a rough start in the second quarter of 2020, but much remains to be seen in terms of what happens as the economy reopens. Refinitiv still shows a consensus estimate of $0.56 in earnings per share for the second quarter (versus $2.83 in EPS a year ago) and it sees sales falling 36% to $9.2 billion.

Where things get tricky in evaluating Caterpillar is on an annual basis. It was originally expected that Caterpillar would start to see a rebound in 2020 as trade picked back up, but the coronavirus swallowed that expectation in short order. Refinitiv has 2020 consensus estimates of $4.92 in EPS on $40.5 billion in revenues, which represents a 55% decline in earnings per share and represents a drop of almost 25% in annual revenues versus 2019.

Caterpillar shares were last seen down 0.3% at $104.65 on Wednesday morning, and the 52-week trading range is $87.50 to $150.55. Its dividend yield is 3.9%.

Refinitiv’s consensus analyst price target was $123.10 on last look, but at the start of 2020 that consensus target of $144.82, compared with a 2019 year-end price of $147.68.