Market Minute: Bellwether Caterpillar Posts Disappointing Profit and Sales

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Caterpillar misses, and Boeing gears up for a re-launch.

The major averages last week suffered their biggest losses since last June. The Dow Industrials and the S&P 500 both fell 2.1 percent, and the Nasdaq dropped 2.7 percent.

But Barron's annual survey of money managers shows record levels of bullishness, despite ongoing concerns about the European financial crisis and Fed policy. The poll indicates the Dow could hit 16,000 by the middle of next year.

FILE - JANUARY 28: According to reports January 28, 2013, Caterpillar Inc, posted a 55 percent drop in fourth quarter profit due to charges taken from accounting fraud at a Chinese subsidiary and a high inventory due to the global economic slow down. ELMHURST, ILLINOIS - APRIL 24: Caterpillar earth moving equipment is displayed at Patten Industries on April 24, 2006 in Elmhurst, Illinois. Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar reported first-quarter earnings higher than forecasted at $840 million, up 45 percent from $581 million during the same period in 2005. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Quarterly earnings are set to dominate the action again this week, and there has to be some concern with the numbers from one bellwether company: Caterpillar's (CAT) profit and sales came in short of expectations. It also forecast that sales for the full year will be below target levels, because of slow growth in the world economy.

Hasbro's (HAS) operating net and sales both topped expectations. The company pointed to strong sales of games, as well as toys intended for girls.

After the close, we'll hear from chip-maker Texas Instruments (TXN) and from Netflix (NFLX).

Boeing (BA) is installing its re-designed battery packs on its troubled 787 Dreamliner today. It could start carrying passengers again next month after the FAA late on Friday approved the new battery system. The worldwide fleet of 787s was grounded in mid-January.

A trial starts today in a trademark infringement case against Facebook (FB). A company named Timelines sued Facebook back in 2011 after the social-networking giant introduced the timeline feature on its user pages.

General Motors (GM) says it will build four new manufacturing plants in China over the next three years. The goal is to increase production capacity to 5 million units a year.

Ameriprise Financial (AMP) is reportedly preparing a bid for the asset management unit of Lloyd's Banking of the U.K. According to the Sunday Times the bid could be valued at $1.2 billion dollars.

And Orbital Sciences (ORB) sent a rocket on its first test flight last night. The company is competing with a firm owned by Elon Musk to take cargo to the International Space Station.

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Market Minute: Bellwether Caterpillar Posts Disappointing Profit and Sales

With the various incentives to use credit and debit cards, cash can often seem like an afterthought. After all, obtaining, tracking, and toting it can seem more hassle than it's worth. But if credit-card swiping is turning into mindless spending with month-end statement shock, it might be time to switch from plastic back to paper.

A once-weekly withdrawal from a no-fee ATM can help keep spending on everything from incidentals to luxury items in check. Want to take it up a notch? Try budgeting and paying cash for purchases larger than the daily latte: groceries, gas, mass transit tickets, or an evening out.

Bank of America offers its customers the chance to Keep the Change. The premise is simple. For every purchase a customer makes with his or her debit card, Bank of America will round up to the nearest dollar, and deposit the difference into your savings account. The bank will even match the difference for the first three months, up to $250. The catch? B of A charges a $12 monthly maintenance fee for customers who don't use direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 minimum balance.

The old-school alternative? A mason jar and a daily ritual of emptying pockets and purses of any loose change left over after paying for items with cash.

There's something inherently charming about the old Holiday Club and Vacation Club accounts. They call to mind days when every $5 received in a birthday card was squirreled away; when banks still gave out toasters, and lined their counters with jars of lollipops.

It might sound quaint, but the discipline works. Socking away a few dollars a week over the course of several months to help fund a vacation or holiday shopping adds up. The cash out at the end of the term is like winning the lottery -- one lump sum comprised of tiny, barely noticeable amounts throughout the year.

Previous generations knew their banker by name, knew his or her children's names; they swapped stories, were part of the same community. While it's temping and convenient to complete most banking transactions online or rush in and out of a branch when needed, what's lost is a personal connection that email alerts and social-media posts simply can't replace.

There are tangible benefits to getting to know local branch staff. Having a face-to-face connection with bank staff can be helpful in resolving charge disputes, being kept abreast of rate changes, and getting information on specially tailored products.

Before the days of the large international bank, most people had their financial needs met at the corner savings and loan. If big banking has lost its appeal, seek out smaller, local banks, many of which aren't publicly traded, or credit unions, which are not-for-profit. The difference between these two types of banks and large, publicly traded ones is that banks that don't have to appease shareholders can focus on its customers first.

According to the Independent Community Bankers of America, local banks focus on "personal service, local credit decisions and ownership, and reinvestment in the community." And according to the Credit Union National Association, credit unions exist to provide financial literacy for their members, serve the needs of their members regardless of means, and offer lower rates than traditional large banking models.

While no one would recommend stashing savings under a mattress or issuing I.O.U.s for groceries, adopting some old-fashioned tactics for financial management might be just the ticket to thriving in the modern world.
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