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Earnings Preview: 3M expected to post 3Q profit

MINNEAPOLIS -- 3M Co. makes an array of stuff that, taken together, can be a good indicator of where the economy is today, and where it's headed. That's what investors will be looking for when 3M reports third-quarter results on Tuesday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: 3M makes Post-it notes. It makes the granules in roofing shingles. It makes coatings for LCD televisions. Pipe coatings. Glue. Coatings for traffic signs. If it's sticky and some business somewhere in the world needs it, there's a decent chance 3M makes it.

So when economies speed up, 3M often benefits before other companies do, because it makes the stuff other companies use to make the stuff they sell to consumers. But, that also means slowdowns can hurt 3M before other companies.

WHY IT MATTERS: Bernstein Research analyst Steven Winoker wrote that he's "somewhat concerned with the early cycle nature of much of 3M's business in the current macro environment."

He wrote that he expects companies such as 3M and the other similar companies he tracks to say that North America is still headed in a more positive trajectory than other places, that Europe's business will be flat or down, and that China and emerging markets will be mixed.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Net income of $1.65 per share, with revenue of $7.63 billion, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Earnings at Maplewood, Minn.-based 3M fell about 2 percent to $1.09 billion, or $1.52 per share, because of slower spending in the U.S. Revenue rose 10 percent to $7.53 billion, driven by acquisitions and gains in foreign exchange.

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