2 Industrial Juggernauts Surprise Wall Street Today

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was trading down 10 points by midafternoon in a day of repeated rises and falls. The latest drop came even after some strong earnings reports and the Commerce Department's announcement that durable goods orders rose 2.6% last month. That was the biggest jump since November and was driven by a surge in aircraft orders. However, excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders still rose 2% -- the biggest increase in over a year. With that in mind, here are some companies moving in the market today.

Inside the Dow, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  )  was trading nearly 2% higher after the heavy-equipment manufacturer surprised Wall Street with better than expected first-quarter results. Caterpillar reported earnings per share of $1.44, an increase from $1.31 per share from last year's first quarter. Excluding restructuring costs, Caterpillar's earnings per share was $1.61.

Caterpillar's results were clearly driven by its construction industries segment. Global sales of the company's construction machinery pushed 20% higher and earnings more than tripled.

"Residential construction has been improving and now we are getting a kick from commercial construction in North America," said Karen Ubelhart, a Bloomberg Industries machinery analyst. "Both the dealers and Caterpillar are saying, 'Things have turned and we want to be ready for it.'"

Despite the results, Caterpillar expressed caution that 2014 could be a challenging year, with sales still far below the company's peak in 2012. Management also expressed concern about the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which could hinder sales in the region, as well as continued weakness in China.

GM's full size trucks boosted transaction prices. Source: General Motors.

Outside the Dow, General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) also posted better than expected results despite ballooning costs from its massive recalls. General Motors took a $1.3 billion pretax charge for costs associated with recalling nearly 7 million vehicles, as well as a $0.4 billion loss from special items. Those charges combined to bring General Motors' earnings per share down a staggering $0.71 per share -- leaving a net income attributable to common shareholders of $0.06 per share.

Despite the costly recall, there were a couple of positive takeaways for investors in the first quarter. General Motors posted an all-time high quarter for sales in China and also boasted record high average transaction prices in North America, largely due to its newly designed full-size trucks.

"Clearly the headline results are overshadowed by the recall campaign charges -- $1.3 billion -- but when you look underneath that we had strong performance across the board," Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters at GM's headquarters in Detroit, according to Bloomberg.

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