So Tuesday was rough on the eyes.
It was a fifth straight down day for the Dow Jones Industrial Average
The problem wasn't the results, which were obviously great, but the interpretation of the outlook as described by Caterpillar CFO Bradley Halverson on the conference call with investors after the results.
"The outlook assumes that first-quarter adjusted profit per share will be the high watermark for the year," Halverson said. One reason for that was, as Halverson said, the company expects "steel and other commodity costs to be a headwind all year."
It isn't an "oops," but it was a downer.
Because equity investors make their decisions based on their expectation of whether future profits will exceed what's already been posted, it doesn't look good for Caterpillar shares going forward this year, even though the company is making, and is going to make, a ton of money. Just not enough more than it's already made.
3M (MMM) , the maker of products ranging from surgical tape to power tools, lost 6.8%, the worst performer on the Dow, after cutting its forecasts for sales and profits this year. It said growth is being hampered by difficulties in the vehicle and consumer electronics markets. 3M is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS.
"While a slower first quarter was telegraphed in March, weaker margins were not, and neither was a guidance cut to the high end of the range," Steve Tusa, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a report. "There are more questions than answers here now."
There were enough answers for investors to decide to head for the hills on Tuesday. The shares, which fell as much as 7.3% during the session, were already down 8.3% for the year as of Monday.
Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) dropped 6.25% to $336.20, after opening up 0.7%, after the defense contractor didn't raise its free cash flow forecast even as the Trump administration spends more on defense. It's another example of investors exiting a profitable company because they don't think it will be able to sustain those profits.
Overall, the major indexes are about flat for 2018 so far, and it's almost May. The reasons the markets have done well during the Trump era - low taxes, lax regulation, scant enforcement and the weakness of organized labor - may be having less effect on investors' animal spirits at the moment as they contemplate the future That future appears to herald higher prices for commodities such as steel and aluminum because of the president's tariff tirade.
The Trump trade giveth, and it taketh away.
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