Caterpillar tainted industrial earnings season with one line


Caterpillar may have tainted the entire earnings season for industrial companies with one line, according to CNBC’s Jim Cramer, and now the company is trying to walk it back.

Caterpillar’s management on Tuesday sought to clarify last month’s now-infamous “high-water mark” comment — made by CFO Bradley Halverson on the heavy equipment maker’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

According to a Bloomberg report, Caterpillar officials said Tuesday, “All we meant was that we had an exceptionally strong first quarter,” not that the stock market was peaking.

“Honestly, [the conference call] wrecked the whole cyclical move and now they’re kind of walking it back,” Cramer said later on “Squawk on the Street.” “They’re not [just] walking it back, they’re running it back.”

“The ‘high-water mark,’ that didn’t work, that didn’t hold water,” Cramer added. “There was a hole in their bucket.”

“CAT defined this earnings period,” he continued. “And for them to walk it back, I don’t know, maybe a too little too late.”

It all started on the morning of April 24, when shares of Caterpillar surged at the open and were up 4.6 percent in early trading after earnings and revenue topped estimates.

But just hours later, Halverson said Caterpillar’s outlook assumed the first quarter would be “the high-water mark for the year.” The Dow component sharply reversed and nosedived 6.2 percent, taking the broader stock market with it.

Cramer had called out Caterpillar shortly after the industrial giant’s earnings call, saying the statement sent a wave of fear among market watchers who saw the stock as good as it could get. “I can’t escape the feeling that this was a bit of a self-inflicted wound,” the “Mad Money” said at the time.

Since the April 24 close, Caterpillar has recovered more than half the decline of that day. So far this year, the stock has fallen about 5 percent. However, over the past 12 months, it has soared more than 50 percent. Caterpillar, as of Monday’s close, had a market value of nearly $90 billion.

Caterpillar did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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