Don't Expect This Thorn in Caterpillar Inc.'s Side to Disappear Anytime Soon

Aside from mining weakness overseas, there's another small problem that Caterpillar could deal with for years.

Jul 21, 2014 at 3:00PM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was trading 37 points lower, or 0.22%, by midafternoon as global concerns regarding the escalating military conflict in Gaza and continued worries on the Ukraine-Russian border seemed to weigh on investors. However, the adverse impact on the market appears limited.

"When you have interest rates as low as they are it really dampens stock market volatility tremendously," Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management, told Reuters. "It takes very significant, serious international activity to change that volatility level." 

As earnings season rolls on investors will hope for strong overall reports to help boost the markets. With that in mind, a major Dow component is making headlines before its second-quarter earnings report this week.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) said it believes it will "more likely than not" win the tax case in which the IRS has questioned the company's recording of foreign profits. According to The Wall Street Journal, a Senate subcommittee estimated Caterpillar had avoided or delayed payments on more than $2.4 billion of U.S. taxes since 1999.

Caterpillar created a Swiss unit that bought expensive parts directly from suppliers and effectively removed the company from the transaction, thus dampening its U.S. tax liabilities. This won't be the last time investors in the heavy-machinery maker hear about this, and the IRS will likely take up to 12 months to make its final conclusion. Should the IRS rule against Caterpillar, the industrial juggernaut would likely appeal the decision and drag this scenario out for years.

Meanwhile, investors looking to Caterpillar's earnings release hope the company can shake off weakness in overseas mining markets that has sent profits in its resource industries segment plunging. Caterpillar supplies heavy mining machinery to these markets, so their weakness has been devastating to the company's bottom line and has turned its most profitable segment into its least profitable.

Chart by author. Information source: Caterpillar's SEC filings.

Outside the Dow, General Motors (NYSE:GM) is also gearing up to issue its second-quarter report this week. General Motors sold more than 2.5 million vehicles globally in the second quarter, a meager 0.5% gain from the same period last year.

While that gain was less than impressive, it should be noted that GM's year-over-year sales in the United States and China were up a respective 7% and 8% in the second quarter. Those two markets are the world's largest and the most profitable for GM.

As GM's sales rise in its most profitable regions, Citigroup's Itay Michaeli believes America's largest automaker will beat estimates for the second quarter. When excluding recall costs, Michaeli and his team believe GM's margins in North America will reach roughly 11%, which would be a significant improvement compared to the last couple years and would help drive adjusted profits higher. 

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Daniel Miller owns shares of General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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