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This will hurt us more than oil: Caterpillar CEO

CAT CEO: We'll see impact from oil no question

Caterpillar chief Doug Oberhelman told CNBC Monday that battered oil prices will create short-term pain for his company in 2015, but not as much as the slowdown in mining has had in recent years.

"It won't be like we've seen in mining or some of our big cycles in the past," he said of energy prices. "The mining business is definitely bouncing off the bottom."

But ultimately economic growth drives everything, he continued, "[and] economic growth has been slow and that's been the real cause of a lot of the lack of growth for many of us."

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Lower oil and gasoline prices may end up helping, he said. "The giant 'stimulus program' we've all just been blessed with will work its way through eventually."

But in the near term, he said uncertainty rules. "I think most of our customers are kind of talking 'get through the holidays, get into January, see what happens to oil prices' before they make major decisions."

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Oberhelman appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box " ahead of ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange to mark the heavy equipment maker's 85 years as a publicly traded company.

Dollar strengthening will impact Caterpillar's top line, but not as much as on the bottom line, he said.

Have 2 small plants in Russia: Caterpillar CEO

Caterpillar has two small plants in Russia, but they are dependent on the local economy there, which has been really hurt, he said. "We've scaled back."

He said China has been slow for his industry. "As they work through transition, they're doing things that will benefit that economy long term," he said. "It's still huge market and will be over the long run," he continued. "China is turning into a somewhat developed, developing country."

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Oberhelman said he's excited by the potential opportunities in Cuba. "I think the announcement last week was long overdue, frankly, not just for business reasons," he said.

"We can see Cuba down the road in a few years maybe like Puerto Rico," he continued. "I don't know if it would be the 52nd state, but there's a lot of Cubans in the United States who would like to see that. It's a big opportunity."

"It's between us and Latin America, and I think we can look at it that way down the road, in a few years," he said.

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