The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) was trading 103 points higher, or 0.63%, by midafternoon, after blue-chip companies Travelers and United Technologies both reported first-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street expectations. On deck are two major Dow industrial corporations, Boeing and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , which respectively report earnings on Wednesday and Thursday.
"The season has been better than many have feared, which is helping investors feel comfortable with the pace of economic growth, not just in the first quarter but going forward," said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, according to Reuters.
With that positive trend in mind, here are some companies making headlines today.
Inside the Dow, Caterpillar rose 1.4%. Last year saw the heavy-equipment manufacturer's revenue decline 16% to $55.66 billion. That decline was trumped only by profit spiraling 33% lower to $3.79 billion. Caterpillar's earnings per share dropped from $8.48 in 2012 to $5.75 in 2014.
Despite Caterpillar's CEO Douglas Oberhelman getting good grades for minimizing damage, stabilizing costs, improving the balance sheet, and returning shareholder value through share buybacks and dividends, his CEO pay package was slashed by 32% to $12 million last year. While his salary actually rose 2%, cash incentives plummeted by more than half and the value of his stock options also declined significantly.
Caterpillar offers investors a company with a strong global dealer network and economies of scale that provide a competitive advantage, factors that aren't going to change because of a disappointing 2013. While Caterpillar is an intriguing long-term value play, there isn't much short-term upside as demand for the company's products is expected to remain weak throughout the year. Investors should keep an eye on China's economic activity, which continues to slow, as Caterpillar is heavily exposed to the mining end market in the region.
Outside the Dow, Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT ) first-quarter results today showed a 23% increase in net earnings to $933 million, or $2.87 per share, on net sales of $10.7 billion. Looking into the numbers, though, and you'll see that a big reason for the net earnings jump was a swing in its pension fund.
Lockheed Martin's pension fund posted income of $86 million, which contributed $53 million to earnings, or $0.16 per share. Furthermore, last year's comparable quarter recorded a pension expense of $121 million, which reduced earnings by $75 million, or $0.23 per diluted share.
That's a big swing not related directly to its core business, to be sure. However, it's still a positive for the company as discount rates are expected to increase slightly this year, which will keep Lockheed Martin's pension fund posting income throughout 2014. Looking ahead, with operating margins improving in four of Lockheed's five business segments, management felt comfortable raising earnings guidance by $0.25 per share for the full year.
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