Unlike some other conglomerates with broad exposure to worldwide manufacturing, IllinoisTool Works (NYSE:ITW) isn't growing at an especially robust clip right now. Although the company continues to produce free cash flow and returns on capital in excess of the cost of that capital, management doesn't seem to be expecting much growth.

Revenue for the second quarter climbed 10%, with about 4% of that growth coming from internal organic improvements. Operating margins dropped because of some declines in high-margin leasing/investment income, and operating income on the whole grew only 1%. Net income grew 4%, but ongoing share repurchases have reduced the share count such that growth in earnings per share came in at 11%.

Growth was fairly tepid across the board. Construction revenue has not picked up to any meaningful extent for the company, and the auto business was weak both in the United States and abroad. So too with industrial sales -- not much strength there, either. On a more positive note, the company's welding business was pretty strong on a global basis, and the food equipment business did all right as well.

While growth was very moderate, the company still continues to produce cash. Free cash flow was up 13% on a year-to-date basis, and the company achieved an 18.9% return on invested capital. Given that the company's cost of capital is below 10%, that's a fairly healthy spread on economic value added.

I would like to be more optimistic about the company, but it's hard to get excited when management seems a bit skeptical and dour. Company executives see revenue growth in the second half of the year in just the low single digits, and it doesn't sound as if they're expecting any significant rebounds in the businesses just yet.

I offer the following for your consideration, though. Many companies with exposure to commercial construction, from JLG (NYSE:JLG) to Washington Group (NASDAQ:WGII), have indicated that they expect improvement. Perhaps Illinois Tool Works isn't seeing a turn yet, but that doesn't mean it couldn't still come.

So too with the automotive business. It's always dangerous to say that an industry can't sink any lower, but I would hope that we're near a bottom in that sector. Assuming that the company continues to succeed in its efforts to penetrate foreign companies and the sector as a whole picks up, that could also bode well for the future.

Not surprisingly, the outlook for the stock is inextricably linked to your outlook for business. If you think business is going to continue to just putter along, there's probably not much reason to own these shares. But if you believe that growth could get better, this stock might prove to be an interesting bargain at these levels.

For other companies hoping for a revival in the construction markets:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).