Johnson Controls Announces $3 Billion Buyback Increase, and Treasury Will Exit General Motors Early

Stocks are trading mostly higher today, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.63% just after 3 p.m. EST to put it just above 16,000. Initial unemployment claims offered investors some positive news: Claims fell 21,000 to 323,000 last week -- better than the expected total of 335,000.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor. Originally used by Patrick Morris here.

With that in mind, here are some industrial juggernauts making the headlines today.

Inside the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Caterpillar is one of the biggest losers, trading 0.8% lower, and it continues to sing the blues as global demand for its mining equipment continues to drag sales and earnings lower.

Caterpillar reported Wednesday that in the quarter ended Oct. 31, global sales of its machinery by its dealers was down 12% from a year earlier. While its machinery sales have been the biggest reason for Caterpillar's decline this year, its power-systems segment sales were also down 9%. That's worse than the three-month period ended Sept. 30, which saw a decline of machinery and power-systems sales of 9% and 2%, respectively, compared to the prior year.

General Motors' Headquarters in Detroit. Photo credit: GM

Outside the Dow Jones Industrial Average, General Motors shares initially surged more than 3% in early trading as the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it expected to close the rest of its stake in the company by the year's end. This is faster than the original expectation of March 2014, and investors have clearly cheered the move.

The Treasury announced it sold 70.2 million shares of General Motors this morning and will launch a plan to sell the remaining 31.1 million shares soon. This announcement means the Treasury has recouped $38.4 billion of the overall $49.5 billion loaned to the automaker. That leaves taxpayers on the hook for $10 billion and may not quiet those naming the company "Government Motors," although it's significant step forward for both the company and the Treasury.

Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Tim Bowler in a statement:

Treasury's investment in the American auto industry was part of President Obama's broader response to the financial crisis, and it helped save more than one million jobs. Had we not acted to support the automotive industry, the cost to the country would have been substantial -- in terms of lost jobs, lost tax revenue, reduced economic production, and other consequences. ... All three American automakers are now profitable, and more than 340,000 new auto jobs have been created since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

Shares of Johnson Controls are trading almost 4% higher today after the company announced it would increase its share buyback program by $3 billion. That gives the company authorization of up to $3.65 billion, and it has reportedly repurchased $400 million in fiscal 2014, with plans for an additional $800 million this month through an accelerated program with Goldman Sachs.

This is a big move for the company to begin returning value to shareholders through a second avenue, as it has already delivered dividend increases in 33 of the past 35 years. Going forward, the remaining $2.4 billion in authorized buybacks will be used in fiscal 2015 and 2016, according to Johnson Controls.

"We have a strong balance sheet and are committed to disciplined capital allocation, giving us the capacity to continue investing in our businesses while meaningfully increasing the cash we return to our shareholders," CEO Alex Molinaroli said in a press release.

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