Caterpillar Is Best Performing Dow Stock of 2016 — Up 36%, but machinery sales down

For the best-performing stock among the Dow 30 industrials, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) does not have a lot to shout about when it comes to retail sales. In its monthly retail sales report filed Tuesday, the company said global sales of all its machines dropped 17% in November, compared with the November 2015.

October sales were down 12% year over year and September sales were down 18%. Retail sales are reported on the basis of a three-month rolling average by geographic region. The Asia/Pacific region aside, year-over-year retail sales figures are down everywhere on all types of equipment.

The single bright spot for the entire year to date is construction machinery sales in Asia/Pacific, where year-over-year totals have risen in nine consecutive months. Sales in the region were up 11% in November. Asia/Pacific sales of mining equipment rose 7% in November, after a rise of 8% in October.

North American sales have declined year over year in all categories. Total sales were down 19% in November, with mining equipment sales down 28% and construction equipment sales down 17%.

In Caterpillar’s Latin America division, total sales are down 32% year over year, with sales of mining equipment down 37% and sales of construction equipment down 30%.

Global sales of mining equipment were down 24% in November, and global sales of construction equipment were down 15%. Total sales of Caterpillar’s energy and transportation equipment were down 25%, with sales of oil and gas equipment down 17%.

In its preliminary outlook for fiscal year 2017, Caterpillar said that “sales and revenues will not be significantly different than 2016.” Negative risk is stronger in the first half of the year, but the company said it is “encouraged that most commodity prices important to our business have improved from the lows earlier in 2016.”

The stock has jumped about $10 a share since the November election, likely based on the notion that a Trump administration will carry through on the president-elect’s promised infrastructure plan and increased exploration for oil and gas in the United States. Promises of lower taxes and higher commodity prices, especially for oil, have figured in as well.

For its part, Caterpillar has been cutting costs by firing employees and lowering manufacturing costs. At the end of 2015 the company said it would eliminate 10,000 employees and close or consolidate 20 worldwide facilities by the end of 2018.

The stock traded up about 2% Tuesday morning, at $94.50 in a 52-week range of $56.36 to $97.40. The consensus 12-month price target is $86.66. The company’s dividend yield of 3.26% also may be a significant factor in its elevated share price.