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While banks and politicians have systematically squandered the public's trust over the course of this protracted U.S. financial whatever-you-want-to-call-it, some of the nation's core industrial manufacturers have earned the trust and admiration of their shareholders by confronting a very challenging business cycle with uninterrupted determination and astounding resilience.
I have stood in awe of the North American railroads, as Norfolk Southern's (NYSE: NSC ) inspiring stock performance has offered investors an uncommonly safe haven from the economic storm. Like its sure-footed namesake creature, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) hardly lost its footing.
But even among those industrials whose stocks have not fared as well, one can observe a masterful adaptation to the prevailing challenges may be reflective of companies most likely to deliver long-term gains at the slightest easing of the remaining headwinds. Steelmaker Nucor (NYSE: NUE ) has stood steel-clad to the tests of time, and wallboard manufacturer USG (NYSE: USG ) has remained on its feet while receiving a thorough beating from the deeply impaired housing market.
To the list of iconic American brands that have reminded us of the fortitude and adaptability required to survive or thrive in the modern industrial age, I wish to add diversified equipment manufacturer Terex (NYSE: TEX ) . The company performed a remarkable feat in the first quarter, delivering positive operating cash where first-quarter flows have been negative for roughly a decade. The company beat analysts' expectations for both revenue and earnings for the quarter, and reiterated guidance for 2012 earnings of between $1.65 and $1.85 per share.
Terex observed some encouraging signs of rebounding demand for equipment, particularly within the company's aerial work platform and materials processing units. Despite some softness in demand for road-building equipment -- particularly as Terex "continues to see a lack of government infrastructure spending in North America and Brazil" -- Terex sees its construction segment improving further from a breakeven result in the first quarter to profitability in the second. For the remainder of 2012, Terex intends to focus on expanding margins throughout its operations by increasing prices and continuing to control costs.
Notwithstanding my deep admiration for the company and its effective adaptations to a challenging business environment, my value-focused investment style did lead me to discontinue my bullish CAPScall on the stock at $26.47 on February 21, 2012. Given the nearly 15% dip that has since befallen the shares, I view the stock more favorably here than I did a couple of months ago. I am not quite prepared to re-initiate my bullish CAPScall, but I am very close. I encourage Fools to join me in watching the company as a compelling long-term investment target by adding Terex using the My Watchlist link below.