"None of us sitting here six months ago would have ever guessed $45 oil," Oberhelman said, pointing to the collapse in crude price this year as a major headwind in the current quarter at Caterpillar and in the year ahead.
Outside the oil producing states, the U.S. economy is doing "OK but not booming," the Cat boss added. "We need something more than 3 percent in the U.S. to really grow, create jobs, and grow our top line. I'm not sure we're going to see that in 2015."
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Oberhelman did provide a caveat, acknowledging growth could pick up later in the year if the benefits of lower oil and gasoline prices for consumers work their way into the economy.
As for global growth, Oberhelman said, "We're only forecasting world GDP growth to be up 0.2 of a point to about 2.7 [percent] in 2015. That's not enough to create jobs. That's not enough to drive our top line. And it's a pretty weak economy overall."
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He characterized the European Central Bank's announcement last week of a $1.2 trillion bond purchase program as overdue but a "slight net positive."
"They've got to do something to revive Europe," he continued. "It's going to take a while to dig out of that hole."