The number of companies warning of a slowdown in China is growing, with both construction machinery company Caterpillar and chipmaker Nvidia blaming weaker demand in the country for disappointing figures, a bad omen for the global economy.
“Sales in Asia/Pacific declined due to lower demand in China, partially offset by higher demand in a few other countries in the region,” Caterpillar said in its earnings press release. “Unfavorable currency impacts also contributed to the sales decline.”
Caterpillar, one of the largest equipment manufacturers in the world, is considered a bellwether for global trade given the company’s exposure to overseas markets. Caterpillar gets 59 percent of its sales from outside of the U.S. and nearly a quarter of its revenue from the Asia Pacific region, according to figures form Goldman Sachs last year.
Caterpillar spokesperson Corrie Scott confirmed to CNBC that China represents between 5 to 10 percent of total company sales.
The company also issued a forward guidance range that fell short of Wall Street’s earnings expectations on the lower end. It expects earnings per share for December 2019 in a range between $11.75 and $12.75 versus FactSet consensus expectations of $12.73.
“In Asia-Pacific, we expect construction growth in countries outside of China,” Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby said during the company’s earnings call. “Within China, the industry is very dynamic and there are a variety of forecasts. We will continue to monitor the situation but as of now we are forecasting the overall China market to be roughly flat in 2019 following two years of significant growth.”
Caterpillar dropped 9 percent and Nvidia lost 18 percent on Monday.
“Our outlook assumes a modest sales increase based on the fundamentals of our diverse end markets as well as the macroeconomic and geopolitical environment,” Umpleby said in the press release. “We will continue to focus on operational excellence, including cost discipline, while investing in expanded offerings and services to drive long-term profitable growth.”
The Illinois-based company’s role as a global manufacturing leader can result in big swings to the major U.S. stock indexes. For example, when Chief Financial Officer Brad Halverson said last April that the company’s first-quarter adjusted profits per share would be the “high-water mark,” Caterpillar shares sank 6.2 percent and helped drag the Dow down more than 400 points.
‘Deteriorating macroeconomic conditions’
News of declining sales in China, the world’s second-largest economy, is likely to weigh on other globally exposed equities.
Semiconductor manufacturer Nvidia said in a forecast that the economic situation in China is also undermining its performance.
“Deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, particularly in China, impacted consumer demand for NVIDIA gaming graphics processing units,” the company said in a press release. “In addition, sales of certain high-end GPUs using NVIDIA’s new Turing architecture were lower than expected. These products deliver a revolutionary leap in performance and innovation with real-time ray tracing and AI, but some customers may have delayed their purchase while waiting for lower price points.”
Chinese financial markets have struggled over the past year as economic leaders in Beijing tried to prolong the country’s streak of impressive GDP growth with mixed success. Benchmark Shanghai Composite is down 27 percent over the past 12 months. Such growth outlook concerns have taken their toll on high-flying technologies companies like Nvidia.
“Q4 was an extraordinary, unusually turbulent, and disappointing quarter,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA. “Looking forward, we are confident in our strategies and growth drivers.”
Stock futures fell to new lows after the Caterpillar and Nvidia comments.
iPhone maker Apple — once the modern world’s largest publicly traded company — cut its sales forecast earlier this month after CEO Tim Cook blamed slowing iPhone sales in China.
Cook told CNBC that Apple products have not been targeted by the Chinese government, though some customers may have chosen not to buy an Apple device because it is an American company. The United States and China are in the middle of a tit-for-tat trade war, with each country imposing tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods.
Apple reports earnings results on Tuesday, Jan. 29.