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Deere takes a hit as farm economy weakens

This Sunday, June 8, 2014 photo shows John Deere farming equipment at a dealership in Petersburg, Ill. Deere & Co. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
This Sunday, June 8, 2014 photo shows John Deere farming equipment at a dealership in Petersburg, Ill. Deere & Co. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

MOLINE – Deere's third-quarter profit fell 15 percent and the farming equipment maker believes that the same weak sales at home and abroad will cut into earnings for the entire year.

Chairman and CEO Samuel Allen said Wednesday that the company will be scaling back for the remainder of the year to bring production more "in line with demand for our agricultural products."

With commodity prices falling, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in February predicted that farm income in 2014 would sink to levels not seen in four years.

That is cutting into the spending power of farmers and hitting companies like Deere, the world's biggest farm equipment supplier.

Deere earned $850.7 million, or $2.33 per share, for the three months ended July 31. That beat expectations of $2.20 per share, according to a poll by FactSet. But that's still down significantly from last year, when the Moline company earned $996.5 million, or $2.56 per share.

Revenue from equipment sales fell to $8.72 billion from $9.32 billion. Revenue declined to $9.5 billion from $10.01 billion.

Equipment sales for the U.S. and Canada dropped 8 percent.

"Deere's third-quarter performance reflected moderating conditions in the global farm sector, which have negatively affected demand for farm machinery and contributed to lower sales and profits for our agricultural-equipment business," Allen said. "At the same time, our construction and forestry and financial services divisions had higher profit, showing the benefit of a broad-based business lineup."

Construction and forestry sales rose 19 percent during the quarter.

But the slowdown in agriculture sales is global.

"Each of the major regions is projected to have ag equipment sales down 5 percent or more," wrote Citigroup analyst Stephen Volkmann on Wednesday. "South America is now projected to be down 15 percent compared to down 10 percent previously."

Deere & Co. now anticipates a 2014 profit of $3.1 billion, down slightly from its prior forecast of $3.3 billion.

Equipment sales are expected to fall approximately 6 percent for fiscal 2014 and drop about 8 percent for the fourth quarter. Deere previously predicted a 4 percent decline in equipment sales for the year.

The company's stock fell 83 cents to $85.65 before the opening bell.

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