Why Donald Trump is wrong about Caterpillar

Trump's 'liberal' economic policies
Trump's 'liberal' economic policies

With one week to go until the presidential election, it's worth noting that a big U.S. company Donald Trump has repeatedly said has been hurt by foreign competition is actually doing just fine -- Caterpillar.

In fact, Caterpillar (CAT) is the top performing stock in the Dow this year. It has surged nearly 25%.

But Trump has often talked about how the company is unable to effectively compete against one of its top rivals, Japan's Komatsu (KMTUF), because Japan's central bank and government have taken action to weaken the yen.

The lower value of the yen makes Komatsu's tractors, forklifts, and bulldozers cheaper to buy in the U.S. Komatsu is also in the process of buying Caterpillar rival Joy Global (JOY). That deal is expected to close in 2017.

Related: Trump vows to outspend Clinton on roads and bridges

"People are buying Komatsu tractors instead of Caterpillar tractors. I'm telling you, we're in trouble," Trump said on MSNBC in June 2015. (That was back when Trump was best buds with Joe and Mika.)

"Friends of mine are ordering Komatsu tractors now because they've devalued the yen to such an extent that you can't buy a Caterpillar tractor. And we're letting them get away with it," Trump said at a Republican debate in January.

And at a campaign rally in West Virginia in May, Trump boasted that "I love construction, I love the whole thing. I can tell you more about Caterpillar tractors than the people that work there."

Trump pledged to boost the sagging coal mining business in West Virginia, something that would presumably be good for Caterpillar.

And if he defeats Clinton, Trump has even promised to only use equipment from Caterpillar and John Deere (DE) to build the wall on the border with Mexico that he has talked about constantly during the campaign.

Still, if things are as bad as Trump says they are for Caterpillar, then why is Caterpillar's stock doing so well?

Wall or no wall, investors are clearly betting that Caterpillar will benefit from an expected increase in spending on the nation's infrastructure by either a President Trump or Clinton.

Related: Mexico's former president says world must spend more on infrastructure

Trump is correct to note that Caterpillar isn't exactly thriving right now. Weak commodity prices are hurting Caterpillar's sales and profits.

But investors are focusing more on the future and not the present.

An expected boom in spending in the U.S. over the next few years has Wall Street giddy. Analysts are expecting that Caterpillar's earnings will increase by an average of 12% a year for the next few years.

Investors are bullish on Komatsu for similar reasons. Its stock is up 35% this year.

It would also be a mistake to have a myopic focus on just what Caterpillar and Komatsu are doing in the United States. The world is a big place and both companies are doing a lot of business in international markets.

"The United States only makes up 5 percent of the world's population. We've got to learn to deal with the other 95 percent," said Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman at a meeting of the Business Roundtable in February.

"Trade will go on in the Pacific — with us or without us. If we're not part of the growth, we'll be left out," he added.

Wall Street appears to be betting that Caterpillar won't be left out -- no matter what Trump says about the company.

By the way, it is amusing to note that when you Google "Donald Trump and Caterpillar" the first search results (and images) that come up are about how Trump's famous coiffure seems to look like a fluffy Peruvian caterpillar. You can't make this up.

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