3M's (NYSE:MMM) latest sales figures for October helped allay fears that the industrial sector would simply stagnate after the bounce in the third quarter. In short, there was good news in the headline figure of 3% increase in total sales, and the segmental data continue to suggest an ongoing recovery is in place.

Three rows of white N95 face masks.

There's a lot more to 3M's growth prospects than just N95 masks. Image source: Getty Images.

Going back to the third-quarter earnings report released at the end of October, management had forecasted total sales for that month to range from "flat to up [to] low-single digits year-on-year." Therefore, the 3% reported in the recent update comes right at the top of management's guidance range.

In addition, a look at the organic local-currency sales growth reveals some positive trends emerging for the industrial company. As you can see below, the worst affected segment -- transportation and electronics -- appears to be in an ongoing uptrend. Meanwhile, the ongoing strength in healthcare revenue should help the company's margin performance in the fourth quarter. 

3M Segment

October Organic Sales Growth

Q3 Organic Sales Growth

Q2 Organic Sales Growth

Q1 Organic Sales Growth

Safety & Industrial

4%

6.90%

(6.1%)

2.2%

Transportation & Electronics

(4%)

(7.1%)

(18.9%)

(3%)

Health Care

8%

8.1%

(12.4%)

1.2%

Consumer

8%

5.5%

(5%)

6.1%

Total

2%

0.9%

(13.1%)

0.3%

Data source: 3M presentations.

The October sales update shows tentative but demonstrable evidence that 3M's sales are coming in at the high end of management's expectations. Meanwhile, the improving trend in transportation and electronics suggests the company will exit 2020 with the necessary tailwinds behind it in order to meet Wall Street analyst expectations for mid-single-digit revenue growth in 2021. A double win for investors.

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.