Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) pulled out its watering can Friday and rained all over the equities markets. And the intensity of its latest dour warnings about the U.S. economy -- following similar admonitions following its previous quarter -- were sufficient to get lots of attention from the market's minions at week's end.

The company reported earnings for the quarter that rose 20.5% to $927 million, from $769 million a year ago. On a per-share basis, the increase was to $1.40, from last year's $1.14. Revenue was $11.4 billion, versus $10.5 billion in the third quarter of 2006.

But the company committed the double negative of undershooting analysts' expectations somewhat -- the dart-throwers apparently had been looking for $1.43 a share -- and reining in expectations for the year. It was enough to earn Caterpillar a 5.3% haircut to its share price on Friday. Management now expects per-share earnings for 2007 to come in somewhere between $5.20 and $5.60, compared with previous expectations of $5.30 to $5.80.

And while the company noted weakness in U.S. markets, it also described "remarkable growth outside the United States, with particular strength in key industries like mining, oil and gas, electric power, and marine engines." Looking ahead to 2008, management expects that revenues will increase by 5% to 10% and profit per share will climb by 5% to 15%.

Last quarter, Caterpillar was joined by a number of big companies -- including its fellow equipment manufacturer Deere (NYSE:DE), cement producer Cemex (NYSE:CX), delivery specialist FedEx (NYSE:FDX), and oilfield-services leader Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) -- in noting that North American markets appeared to be less robust than those in some other parts of the world. On Friday, Schlumberger and Caterpillar double-teamed investors by repeating and intensifying their warnings about North America.

I would be hard-pressed to explain a market that could continue to move forward amidst the punishing left-right combination of an ever-tightening credit crunch and crude-oil prices nearing $90 a barrel. Yet the companies I've mentioned are strong entities with solid market shares and internationally diverse franchises.

As for Caterpillar, while it might bend somewhat in the U.S., it clearly isn't about to break. On that basis, I'd urge Fools to consider nibbling at the company's shares on any sort of intensified pullback.

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.