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Slower China Economy Beats Boom and Bust: Caterpillar CEO

Doug Oberhelman
CNBC
Doug Oberhelman

China's slowing economy is better than a continued boom followed by a bust, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman told CNBC Friday.

"I think all of us knew [China] was growing too quickly. It was a boiling hot economy the last couple of years," he said. China has slowed its GDP growth to 9 percent from 12 percent.

"Nine percent growth is pretty darn good for the second-largest economy in the world," he added. "Imagine if we had just half of that in the United States. I think we’d all feel pretty good."

But Wall Street wasn't feeling good about the heavy machinery maker's second-quarter earnings, which missed expectations. Analysts were also concerned by the company's comments that economic growth in the U.S. and other developed economies was weaker than expected.

Oberhelman said he'd rather see the Chinese economy slow down than crash, which he said "wouldn’t be good for any of us." But he also acknowledged "a slowdown will have ramifications" for Caterpillar despite other growth areas around the world including Brazil and the Middle East.

Back in the U.S., the slow growth of the economy and the fight over the debt ceiling are among the factors keeping customer orders down.

"There is a lot of uncertainty that is extreme this week and will be very extreme next week" if the debt ceiling is not raised and the U.S. defaults on its obligations, he said. "We have to get on with business."

Oberhelman said he was particularly disappointed that trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama have been stalled in the Senate.

"We had hoped, and had assurance" the treaties would be enacted by mid-summer "but those are stalled along with everything else," he said.