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Cummins forecast sideswipes U.S. industrials

The Ford F-150 in a crash test.

Ford/Wieck

Navistar International Corp. and much of the U.S. industrial sector has been hit by a truck. And that truck is Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a manufacturer of engines and fuelsystems, ratcheted back its 2012 sales projections Tuesday, pulling down the shares of many U.S. companies that serve the global economy. The declines exacerbated slides that many of the companies have experienced this year as concerns about a global slump have grown.

Navistar, a maker of trucks and truck parts, had already fallen more than 18 per cent since July 3 thanks to concerns its costs would rise under new requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Cummins news cut the shares by another 7 per cent Tuesday.

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The company was making a slight recovery Wednesday on news that an activist hedge fund, MHR Fund Management LLC, was boosting its stake. But in afternoon trading, it remained below Monday's closing price, and it's approaching 52-week lows that are less than half the the 52-week high of $56.14.

PACCAR Inc., a competing truck maker, fared better. It was down just over 3 per cent Tuesday and has slipped slightly more in Wednesday trading.

The Manitowoc Co. Inc., a maker of construction cranes and foodservice products, fell 7 per cent Tuesday and had failed to make back any ground by early Wednesday afternoon.

Global industrial bellwether Caterpillar Inc. slipped more than 3 per cent Tuesday and hadn't recovered Wednesday. At around $80 (U.S.) per share, it's nearly one-third off its 52-week high of $116.95 reached just over four months ago, on Feb. 24.

Cummins, which had previously forecast 10 per cent sales gains, scaled back its forecast to flat revenue growth, citing problems both in the U.S. and emerging markets.

It also blamed a rising U.S. dollar that has strengthened due to European weakness. As the dollar rises, U.S. companies with a large proportion of global sales see sales and profits fall, because their international sales are worth less when converted to dollars.

The declines have sent the forward price-to-earnings ratios of all these companies to levels between eight (Caterpillar, Cummins and Navistar) and 11 (PACCAR and Manitowoc), per Standard & Poor's CapitalIQ.

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Stephen Weiss, managing partner at Short Hills Capital, said on the U.S. cable channel CNBC that he believes continuing European problems will send the dollar higher and force more downward revisions. "At current levels a stock like Cummins is cheap – if you think current estimates stand."

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About the Author
Business and investing reporter and columnist

A business journalist since 1994, David Milstead began writing for The Globe and Mail in 2009. During eight years at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colo., he individually or jointly won nine national awards from SABEW, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He has also worked at the Wall Street Journal. More

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