What happened 

Shares of industrial giant 3M Co (NYSE:MMM) fell as much as 8.5% in early trading Tuesday after reporting third-quarter 2018 results. There was a little bounce from those lows at 11:30 a.m. EDT, with shares trading down just 6.5% on the day. 

So what

Revenue was down 0.2% to $8.15 billion, and net income was up 8% to $1.54 billion, or $2.64 per share. On an adjusted basis, which pulls out one-time items, earnings were $2.48 per share. 

Resin being used in manufacturing process.

Image source: Getty Images.

Analysts were expecting $8.41 billion in revenue and $2.70 per share in earnings, so results fell well short of expectations. 

The bigger news may have been management's updated earnings guidance for the year of $9.90 to $10.00, down from a previous range of $10.20 to $10.45 per share. Analysts were expecting $10.28 per share in earnings. 

Now what

The weak results follow an outstanding second quarter that may have given investors a little too much hope for growth. Management had disclosed that an ERP rollout could front-weight 2018's sales, and price increases implemented in the past year would only drive organic growth for so long. That said, the slowdown was worse than most analysts expected, and negative sales in a strong economy can't be a good sign. That's why shares of 3M are down big today. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.