Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman told CNBC that he has more confidence than he's had in two years about the stability of the global economy and he hopes the mining business has bottomed. Nonetheless, Caterpillar investors may want to tread carefully, says one analyst.
After reporting earnings, the Caterpillar CEO said that while it's hard to predict what will happen to its business in a flat-to-slow growth economy, "this is the first year in three years where we've seen a relative degree of stability around the world."
Despite a 10 percent decline for the stock year-to-date, for long-term investors the question is whether the mining cycle has reached a bottom or whether there are still another couple of years of declines looming, said Ann Duignan, an analyst at JPMorgan,
Caterpillar, which competes with Joy Global, cut its 2013 revenue outlook to $57 billion to $61 billion, as its "expectations for mining have decreased significantly," the company said.
"Historically, mining cycles have been very long cycles—about seven-year cycles, not one-year cycles," the JPMorgan analyst told CNBC. "That's what long-term investors are going to have to wrestle with today."
Duignan, who has a "neutral" rating on the stock, said 2012 was the peak and there are still a couple of years of declining capital spending on mining equipment still to come.
"Mining capex spending peaked in 2012 at about $136 billion. We have it falling to about $109 billion this year and we have it falling again next year," she said. "We're going with history. These cycles are long."
Caterpillar's Oberhelman is more upbeat. "Our story right now is mining," he told CNBC. "It's very soft around the world. I'm thinking, I'm hoping we are at the floor on mining."
A turnaround may still be some time off, however, Duignan warned: "Mining capex picks up after mining companies start to make money, so we'd be a little bit more on the cautious side than Caterpillar with that view."
JPMorgan currently has or had within the past 12 months provided non-investment banking securities-related services to CAT. CAT is an investment banking client of JPMorgan.