PEORIA, Illinois ( TheStreet) - Caterpillar ( CAT) smashed analysts' earnings estimates as sales skyrocketed by 62%.

Caterpillar reported fourth-quarter earnings of $968 million, or $1.47 a share, up from $232 million, or 36 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose to $12.81 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the heavy-equipment maker to earn $1.27 a share on revenue of $11.63 billion.

"As the global economy continued to improve, the demand for Caterpillar products increased substantially," said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman, in a statement.

Caterpillar said it expects 2011 revenue to exceed $50 billion and profit to be near $6 a share. Caterpillar earned $4.15 a share in 2010 on revenue of $42.59 billion.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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