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A weekly column that attempts to warn investors about outright scams, stocks that seem overpriced on the basis of their current assets, future outlook, and financial results.


Taking a bearish stance on CAT

Peter Kennedy Peter Kennedy, Stockhouse Featured Writer
0 Comments| November 22, 2012

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As Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX: T.ABX, Stock Forum) (NYSE: ABX, Stock Forum), Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX: T.K, Stock Forum) (NYSE: KGC, Stock Forum) and other major resource firms come under increasing pressure to cut costs, equipment suppliers are suffering the consequences.

It is why some analysts think Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT, Stock Forum) shares may be overpriced, even after falling from $92.50 in late September to $83.05 this week, leaving the Peoria, Illinois giant with a market cap of $54.3 billion, based on 653.9 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range is $116.95 and $78.25.

One of the skeptics is Alin Abdulla, an investment advisor with Leede Financial Markets Inc. in Vancouver. Abdulla told Stockhouse he went short at the $83.40 level this week in the belief that he will profit if the shares continue to fall.

Caterpillar is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. In that sense, it is kind of a bellweather for the global resource industry.

In the third quarter ended September 30, 2012, Caterpillar posted a profit of US$1.7 billion or $2.54 a share on sales and revenue of $16.4 billion. That was up from $1.1 billion or $1.71 per share on sales and revenue of $15.7 billion in the year earlier period.

However, due to weaker than expected global economic conditions, the company recently warned investors that sales and revenue for 2012 would be $66 billion, below an earlier forecast of between $68-$70 billion. In keeping with the revised target, the company also lowered its profit forecast to the $9 to $9.25 per share range and from the previous $9.60 estimate.

“As we’ve moved through the year, we’ve seen continued economic weakening and uncertainty,’’ said Caterpillar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman. “It’s definitely impacting our business with dealers intending to lower inventories and mining customers delaying some projects and reducing orders.’’

For his part, Abdulla said the impact of a weakening global economy on future earnings is a key reason why he elected to go short on Caterpillar. “A lot of these companies are not well priced with that in mind,’’ he said.

He is not alone in taking that view.

On November 12, 2012, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. downgraded the bulldozer manufacturer to neutral from overweight and cut the company’s share price target to $90 from $109.

“We cannot overlook the continued pressure the mining sector is facing to reduce capex, as well as the re-election of President Obama and the impact this could have on the U.S. coal and energy sectors,’’ analyst Ann Duignan said in a note to clients.

J.P. Morgan had been overweight on the company since 2008.

Meanwhile, shares of Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE, Stock Forum) fell 3.7% to $82.83 on Wednesday after the agriculture-equipment manufacturer reported earnings that came in below consensus estimates.

In Canada, after seeking its own stock price tumble from $26.50 in late September to $22.76 this week, Finning International Inc. (TSX: T.FTT, Stock Forum) said it is operating with caution and continues to monitor business conditions closely.

Having taken a bearish stance on the outlook for oil and copper prices, Abdulla says he sees short term trading opportunities in equipment stocks like Caterpillar. “The trend is bearish,’’ he said.



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