William Blair & Co. analyst Lawrence De Maria said inventory reductions that Caterpillar reported in the latest quarter were "dramatic" and better than he had anticipated. The company and its dealers have both been trying to sell off inventory, and Caterpillar said that reduced production will continue at least through the first quarter.
De Maria, who maintains an "Outperform" rating on the stock, said Caterpillar's "cautiously optimistic view of the world and conservative guidance should help set up for positive earnings surprises in 2013."
The biggest factor driving the stock's performance will probably be the global mining outlook into 2014, he said.
Jefferies & Co. analyst Stephen Volkmann, who maintains a "Hold" rating on Caterpillar, also called the mining outlook critical. The company "still needs additional mining orders in 2013 to fill out its production schedule," he said in a note to clients.