Caterpillar shares fall on slowing sales growth

PEORIA, Ill. -- Caterpillar Inc. shares fell Friday after the company reported a slowdown in sales of its heavy equipment and engines last month.

Caterpillar said worldwide sales of its heavy equipment rose 6 percent in September, down from gains of 13 percent and 14 percent in August and July, respectively.

A 16 percent gain in North America and a 14 percent gain in Asia offset declines of 3 percent in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and a 4 percent drop in Latin America.

September sales of power systems _ basically, big engines _ fell 1 percent. While sales to the petroleum industry rose 8 percent, sales for electric power, industrial, and transportation users all fell, including a 16 percent decline for industrial customers.

The numbers represent sales by dealers to end users.

Slower retail sales of machinery could hurt Caterpillar's efforts to reduce inventory, wrote Jefferies analyst Stephen Volkmann. He noted that some of the slower growth is probably because it's tougher to beat the strong growth that Caterpillar saw in September 2011.

Caterpillar is set to report third-quarter results on Monday.

Shares fell $2.56, or 3 percent, to $84.06 in afternoon trading.