For the period between June 10 and July 10, Caterpillar said worldwide retail sales of its core rolling machinery rose 32% from the same period of 2009. Until the April-to-May period of this year, when
, the metric had been in steady decline for 17 months.
The figures come as top Caterpillar executives traveled to New York for a meeting with analysts and institutional investors, scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon.
Caterpillar never comments
, or "dealer stats," as it calls them, which are percentage comparisons rather than actual dollar figures, broken down by region and segment. The data represents retail sales of Caterpillar machines, rather than factory sales.
Unsurprisingly, the Asia-Pacific region remained the standout. Retail machine sales there increased by 41% in July from a year ago, doubtless driven by China, where Caterpillar has made hay along with just about every other multinational on earth. The July growth follows a rise of 36% in June and 38% in July.
In Latin America, Caterpillar said retail sales rose 32% in July. In Europe and the Middle East, the gain was 19%.
But the North America retail numbers will likely provide bullish-inclined observers with a data point for their arguments. Retail machine sales in this region spiked 38% in July compared with the same period of 2009, Caterpillar said. That would appear to be a considerable acceleration: In June, North American retail machines sales rose 26%, and in May 15%, Caterpillar said.
Skeptics will caution, however, that the rise once again comes off an extremely low base. Last year, the company was struggling mightily amid the recession. Thus, the percentage increases were expected, especially given Caterpillar management's bullish rhetoric in recent quarters.
Also, Caterpillar has done well in mining equipment this year as mineral extractors increase their capital spending in response to rising commodities prices. But construction equipment, Caterpillar's bread-and-butter, likely remains a sore spot. At the very least, the company's monthly dealer stats don't provide much clarity on how its construction-machines business is performing.
The outlook for heavy equipment didn't get any less murky when
released its quarterly results Wednesday, registering a 47% jump in profits but warning investors that the fourth quarter might prove more difficult than expected.
Caterpillar shares were trading tepidly Thursday morning, changing hands at $69.37, down 0.7%.
-- Reported by Scott Eden in New York
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