Joy Global's Profits Plunge in Q4 and General Motors Puts Its Best Foot Forward

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is trading nearly half a percentage point lower today despite good news from the nation's capital. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a deal to set government spending levels for the next two years and avoid a government shutdown in January. The rare pause in the budget wars is reason to celebrate, and spending levels would come in at $1.012 trillion for fiscal 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015. Of course, as with other trending good news, the market has traded lower on fresh concerns that the Federal Reserve will taper its $85 billion a month asset purchasing program any day now. With all of that in mind, here are some major companies making headlines today.

Caterpillar has struggled through a rough year, and competitor Joy Global (NYSE: JOY  ) is also sharing the pain. Shares of Joy Global are trading 6% lower today after it reported a 26% revenue decline, year over year, in the fourth quarter. Its operating margin, adjusted for one-time items, also declined from 21.7% to 16.3%. Joy Global recorded orders 19% lower in the fourth quarter, down to $1.1 billion. That all contributed to earnings of $26.8 million, or $0.25 per share, an 86% decline from last year.

One of the problems Joy Global faces is continued weak commodity prices for coal as weakness remains in Chinese and U.S. markets. Global coal mine operations drive more than two-thirds of the company's revenue and Joy Global's profitability will be weaker until commodity demand picks up.

Chevrolet's Impala has impressed many critics this year. Photo credit: General Motors.

General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) has had a very busy week, announcing that global product chief Mary Barra will succeed CEO Dan Akerson on Jan. 15, 2014. Barra will be the first woman to lead a global automaker, but her 33 years of experience with General Motors made her a standout candidate. She was instrumental in General Motors' global overhaul of new product development that delivered much-improved vehicles such as the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac ATS and CTS.

Barra's promotion also has other top GM executives on the move. Chief Financial Officer Dan Amman will become GM's next president and North America chief Mark Reuss will take over Barra's role as the company's new global product chief. This all comes about, not coincidently I'm sure, right after the U.S. Treasury announced the official exit of its ownership stake in the once-troubled automaker. General Motors is now entering a new era and attempting to put its best foot forward.

Ford unveiled its redesigned 2015 Mustang last week. Photo credit: Ford.

Meanwhile, cross-town GM rival Ford (NYSE: F  ) is beginning to focus on two vital vehicle launches next year: the 2015 Mustang and F-150. Both models are essentially the heart and soul of the company's vehicle lineup.

The Mustang is an iconic American muscle car that will now be sold globally and continues to be Ford's halo vehicle -- one that attracts consumers to the showroom. While sales of the Mustang have been in decline since the recession, Ford hopes its 2015 version will boost sales back to 100,000.

Ford's F-Series, on the other hand, has recorded significant sales gains this year, increasing by nearly 20% over last year. That's huge as the F-Series represents a majority of the company's profits and has significantly contributed to Ford's excellent year for investors. Even with Chevrolet's Silverado and GMC's Sierra receiving redesigns this year they were unable to match sales of the F-Series, combined. Look for the F-Series to become America's best-selling truck for the 37th consecutive year and America's best-selling vehicle for the 31st consecutive year. And for its sales lead to extend further as the next-generation F-150 hits the showrooms next year.

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