Caterpillar Machine Retail-Sales Drop Accelerates

Caterpillar Inc., the biggest maker of construction and mining equipment, said global retail machine sales fell 13 percent in the three months through February.

The drop was more than triple the 4 percent decline reported in the three months through January, the Peoria, Illinois-based company said today in a filing. Asia-Pacific sales declined 26 percent from the same period a year earlier while North American sales were 12 percent lower. The Europe, Africa and Middle East region slid 9 percent. Latin America was up 3 percent.

“It’s continued weakness,” Larry De Maria, a New York-based analyst for William Blair & Co. who has the equivalent of a buy rating on the shares, said in an interview today. Some markets that were strong a year ago such as Asia “could reverse in the second half,” De Maria said.

The bigger drop in the Asia-Pacific region may partly reflect that the Chinese Lunar New Year was in February this year while a year ago it was in January, he said. The market in China, the world’s biggest for construction equipment, slows down during the holiday festivities and picks up in the following month, he said. China represents about 3 percent of Caterpillar sales, according to the company.

Caterpillar fell 1.5 percent to $86.94 at the close in New York, making it the worst performer on the 30-member Dow Jones Industrial Average today. The shares have declined 3 percent this year while the index rallied to a record 14,544 today.