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Stronger dollar hits US earnings From P&G to DuPont to Pfizer

[CHICAGO] The dollar's surge is reducing earnings at American companies from Procter & Gamble Co to Pfizer Inc and DuPont Co that make a large portion of their revenue abroad.

P&G, the world's biggest consumer-products maker, today reported profit that missed analysts' estimates in the quarter ended Dec 31 after what Chief Executive Officer A G Lafley called "unprecedented" foreign-exchange rate fluctuations reduced sales by 5 percentage points.

Chemical company DuPont and drugmakers Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co all posted annual forecasts that trailed predictions, in part because of the stronger dollar.

While 76 per cent of Standard & Poor's 500 Index companies have beaten analysts' estimates so far this earnings season as the US economy weathers a slowdown in global growth, the dollar's advance is making American goods and services more expensive overseas, eroding sales.

The greenback's strength has taken some companies by surprise, prompting United Technologies Corp to cut an annual outlook that was just a month old yesterday.

"There wasn't much choice here but to take the full year down," United Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes said yesterday in an interview. His company, the maker of Pratt & Whitney jet engines, Sikorsky helicopters and Otis elevators, is now modeling for a euro at US$1.10, after projecting the currency at US$1.25 in issuing full-year earnings expectations last month.

Money has flooded into dollar assets in recent months as the world's largest economy outperforms its developed peers and the Fed prepares to raise its main interest rate from the zero- to-0.25 per cent range it's been in since 2008.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index surged 5.6 per cent last quarter, and has gained 2.1 per cent so far this year.

P&G, which makes about two-thirds of annual sales outside of the US, said currency effects will continue to be a drag in the current fiscal year and reduce sales by 5 per cent, leading to a decline of as much as 4 per cent from a year earlier. Like Kimberly-Clark Corp and other consumer companies, Cincinnati- based P&G was especially hurt by a slump in Venezuela, where falling oil prices have heightened the bolivar's volatility.

Pfizer, the biggest US drugmaker, forecast a decline in sales this year as patent expirations and the stronger dollar eat away at revenue. Bristol-Myers, the New York-based maker of cancer treatments such as Yervoy for melanoma, gets about half its sales outside the US The dollar's strength weighs down the company as it pursues growth by focusing on a new class of cancer drugs.

Caterpillar Inc also disappointed investors today with 2015 sales and earnings forecasts that trailed analysts' estimates. The world's largest mining equipment maker was hurt by falling oil and copper prices that threaten to lower demand from drillers and miners. The weaker euro and Japanese yen led to a drop in sales last quarter, Caterpillar also said.

Microsoft Corp, a year into a turnaround by CEO Satya Nadella, is also being tripped up in overseas markets by the stronger dollar, which, combined with a slump in China and Japan, curbed sales of business-software licenses.