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Caterpillar sees uncertain 2013 after tough 4Q

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

MINNEAPOLIS -- Caterpillar said on Monday that its 2013 profit could shrink if the world's economy doesn't pick up in the second half of the year, as mining companies and builders remain cautious about buying new gear.

The cloudy outlook for the year came as Caterpillar reported a fourth-quarter profit less than half as big as a year ago because of a deal in China that went bad and slower growth around most of the world.

Caterpillar Inc. is the largest maker of construction and mining equipment, so its performance rises and falls with the world's economy. It tries to predict where the economy is headed so it knows how many excavators, bulldozers, and mining trucks to build.

If recent economic improvements continue, this could be a record year for Caterpillar, its executives said. But if this year is a replay of the last two, where growth and confidence declined in the second half, "2013 could be a tough year," said Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO.

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