Caterpillar reports earnings on Tuesday, Oct. 25, before the market open.
Investors have already anticipated a turn in Caterpillar's business and have piled into the stock. This is as much fun as value investors and cyclical types get.
Analysts think Caterpillar has hit rock bottom. They believe the company will report revenue of $40.06 billion, down 14.8%, and revenue of $39.5 billion, down 1.3%, next year.
On July 26, Caterpillar reported second-quarter fiscal 2016 results of $1.09 in earnings per share, 13 cents better than the consensus estimate. Revenue fell 16% to $10.34 billion. The decline was mostly from lower sales volume as a result of continued weak commodity prices.
Management reduced guidance for the second time this year. The company is forecasting earnings of $3.70 per share (vs. the $3.53 average estimate). Management predicts 2016 revenue in the range of $40 billion to $42 billion. On the conference call, the company said continued subdued world economic growth is not sufficient to drive improvement in most of the industries and markets Caterpillar serves.
Sales were down in North America, Latin America, Europe and Africa, and the Mid East was flat. While oil trades around $42 per barrel, it is probably not enough to drive incremental investment in new Caterpillar equipment. Management seems less bullish on the world economy in the second half of the year.
For the third quarter, analysts are expecting earnings of 77 cents per share and revenue of $9.9 billion, down 9.6%.
At this point, to buy the stock here, you have to assume that next year business gets dramatically better. If Cat can grow revenue by 2% next year (or $38.1 billion), earnings should increase dramatically. Earnings per share would be closer to $4. Throughout this slowdown, Cat has been reducing costs, so if revenue begins to grow again, the company will have dramatically better operating leverage.
Restructuring costs for 2016 are expected to be about $700 million, up from the company's previous estimate of $550 million. More restructuring is anticipated in the second half of the year. Cat has combined functions, reduced headcount, and found lower raw materials sourcing costs.
Historically, Caterpillar trades between 22 and 23 times forward estimates at the bottom of the sales cycle. Assuming the company is able to earn $3.90 to $4 per share next year, the stock is basically trading within its historical trough multiple.
In my opinion, with cyclical companies, you have to sell at the high multiple and buy when the multiple is low. Once the company begins to report better-than-expected numbers, investors will dump the stock. I would take profits.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.