Cat posts unexpectedly large loss

If there is a bellwether report on the state of heavy construction and mining it’s Caterpillar’s quarterly financial statements. And today’s first quarter news was bleak.

Analysts had anticipated earnings of 8 cents per share and net income of around $8.71 billion. What the company announced today was a loss of 19 cents per share on income of just $922 million. That marks Cat’s first operating loss in more than 16 years.

Still, the company hopes to see a full year profit of $1.25 per share at year’s end. And the company has taken drastic action, laying off more than 24,000 employees, to stem the flow of red ink.