Doing some heavy equipment business

Caterpillar equipment

KAI RYSSDAL: It often happens on Wall Street that what's not in the headlines is what's really the news. 28 of 30 Dow stocks up today. Great. The Dow's pushing 13-thousand? Nice. The S&P 500 within a couple of percentage points of its dot-com record? Fabulous. Really. But consider humble Caterpillar. It's selling a whole mess of bulldozers. Despite a slowdown in one key market. This one. We asked Marketplace's Alisa Roth to dig in a little deeper.


ALISA ROTH: There are really two different stories about Caterpillar today. There's . . .
JOHN KEARNEY: A North American story where you're seeing a tough housing market right now and they've certainly got some exposure to that.

That's John Kearney, an analyst at Morningstar.

He says Caterpillar's truck engine business is making things even worse. Lots of people bought new engines last year to get in under the wire of new emissions standards. So Caterpillar will be selling fewer this year.

Meanwhile, Bear Stearns machinery analyst Ann Duignan says, there's an international story.

ANN DUIGNAN: They are seeing extraordinary strength in construction building in Western Europe and Eastern Europe as well as particularly in Brazil.

Even so, that wasn't enough to rescue Caterpillar's profits: they were down by more than 800-million dollars. But that was still better than what analysts had expecteda€¦which helped give the company a little boost on Wall Street today.

Bear Stearns' Duignan says Caterpillar's not the only one in this bind.

DUIGNAN: It's a pretty common theme that everybody who's connected with U.S. construction is seeing a slowdown in the U.S., but they're seeing an offsetting acceleration in the rest of the world.

Still, she says, Caterpillar's in worse shape than its competitors because optimistic dealers stocked up on too much equipment. They were caught off guard by the downturn in home and commercial building.

She says Caterpillar expects things will be worse in the next quarter. But might start digging out after that. Especially if the feds cut interest rates again before the end of the year.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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