If Caterpillar's dealer sales statistics, traditionally released just one day before the company's earnings report, are an indication of what to expect from the heavy industrial equipment maker, then CAT's Q4 results will be a blow out.
As shown in the following chart, growth in world retail sales jumped from 26% to 34% in December, the highest single month increase since August 2011, and nearly double the 19% growth rates just 2 months ago. The last time retail sales spiked this fast we into the 2010-2011 inflationary surge, which led to China rapidly hiking rates to arrest inflation, and unleashed the most acute phase of Europe's sovereign debt crisis. So far, inflation in China remains missing although that will change soon.
On a regional basis, CAT reported an increase in every single geographic segment:
- North America machine sales up 23% after rising 12% in Nov.
- Asia/Pacific Dec sales up 50% after rising 43%
- Latam Dec. sales up 55% after rising 48%
- EAME (Europe, Africa, Middle East) Dec. sales up 37% after rising 32%
As Bloomberg's Andrew Cinko further adds, "Commodity traders -- especially those in the copper and oil markets -- take note: machine sales to the natural resources industry were up 50% y/y in December. Particularly strong were the 107% increase in Latin America and an 81% increase in Europe, Africa, Middle East. EMEA sales have been growing for seven months now. However, Latin America has seen a dramatic turnaround. Sales have only been growing for the last three months -- and December's 107% increase is stark compared to April when sales were plunging 69%."
That said, before reading too much into the CAT data, recall that between 2013 and 2017, CAT went through a period of 51 consecutive months of declining retail sales, which however failed to adversely impact either the CAT stock price, or result in an accepted economic recession. It is worth noting, however, that CAT's rebound, as well as that of every other asset, start in early 2016, right around the time of the Shanghai Accord, when China's implicit intervention in global market changed everything and has resulted in 21 of 22 consecutive months of S&P growth.