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Global bellwether Caterpillar expects ‘modest’ sales growth in 2019

Economic bellwether Caterpillar (CAT) missed Wall Street’s expectations for fourth-quarter 2018 results and provided a tepid outlook for 2019 as slowing growth in China and tariffs continue to weigh on the company’s performance.

Caterpillar delivered adjusted earnings of $2.55 per share on revenue of $14.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018. Both earnings and sales fell short of expectations, with consensus estimates calling $2.99 per share on revenue of $14.36 billion for the quarter, according to Bloomberg data.

Caterpillar reported its profit guidance for the full-year 2019 for the first time Monday and said it foresees profits of $11.75 to $12.75 per share. The midpoint of the range fell short of estimates of $12.72 per share, based on the consensus of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

“Our outlook assumes a modest sales increase based on the fundamentals of our diverse end markets as well as the macroeconomic and geopolitical environment. We will continue to focus on operational excellence, including cost discipline, while investing in expanded offering and services to drive long-term profitable growth,” CEO Jim Umpleby said in a statement.

The Illinois-based company also noted in its disclosure on forward-looking statements that “international trade policies and their impact on demand for our products and our competitive position, including the imposition of new tariffs or changes in existing tariff rates” could impact the company’s business in the future.

Shares of Caterpillar fell 7.75% to $126.25 each as of 9:30 a.m. ET. Dow futures took a leg lower during early trading immediately following the company’s earnings announcement at 7:30 a.m. ET.

Dow futures took a leg lower on higher volume after Caterpillar reported quarterly results.

Caterpillar’s construction industry sales in the fourth quarter were especially reflective of weakened demand in China amid slowing economic growth in the country. Sales in the Asia-Pacific region were down 4% in the fourth quarter of 2018 over the year-ago quarter, due to “lower demand in China” as well as unfavorable currency impacts.

Construction activities also “remained at low levels in Latin America,” driving a 5% decline in construction industry sales in the region, Caterpillar said.

North America, which comprises nearly half of Caterpillar’s sales, was a bright spot for the company. Construction sales grew 17% in North America in the fourth quarter of 2018 versus the fourth quarter of 2017, “driven by higher demand for new equipment, with about half due to an increase in dealer inventories.” On the whole, construction industries segment revenue grew 8% in the fourth quarter.

Caterpillar shares fell 17% during the fourth quarter of 2018 – the largest quarterly decline in three years – as slowing growth in China, weak commodity prices and European economic concerns weighed on sales for the company’s equipment. The company’s shares were up 7.7% in 2019 as of market close Friday.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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