Deere Leaps

I don't know about you, but I'm tiring of the overuse of the good news-bad news pairing. Having said that, Deere's (NYSE: DE  ) January results and look ahead to the current quarter were a classic case of good news and ... well, you get the picture.

For the quarter, the company's better-than-expected numbers included earnings of $369.1 million, an impressive 55% jump over the $238.7 million earned in the same quarter last year. The per-share line looked like $0.83 vs. $0.52, a nickel higher than generally had been expected. Sales were up 18% year over year to $5.2 billion.

So far, so good. This is a company that's reeling in positive results on the basis of its ability to benefit from the world's expanding agriculture picture, the growth in biofuels production, and heightened demand for its products in emerging markets. As a result, sales outside North America were up 37%.

Agricultural equipment sales increased by 33% in the quarter, while the group's contribution to the company's operating income leaped by a massive 142%. The commercial and consumer segment was something of a mixed bag in the quarter, recording a 16% sale increase, but lower operating income, thanks largely to expenses related to a recent acquisition. And the construction and forestry unit went the other way, with sales down 6%, but operating income that rose 23%.

Since you're still waiting for the bad news for the company, you probably suspect that it involved the look ahead at likely future results. Specifically, management is now guiding toward earnings in the current quarter of between $700 million to $725 million, down about $10 million at the top end from Wall Street's expectations. Conversely, the full-year guidance of $2.2 billion is slightly higher than the dart throwers $2.1 billion consensus forecast.

For my money, Deere enjoys an enviable position amid the ballooning global demand for agricultural products. It's a world that it shares with the likes of Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) , Mosaic (NYSE: MOS  ) , Potash (NYSE: POT  ) , and its fellow equipment manufacturer and distributor AGCO (NYSE: AG  ) , among others. It's a sector that has exploded during the past year. It's also one that won't -- indeed, can't -- disappear any time soon.

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