The Peoria, Ill.-based company reported that sales from December through February in North America, its largest market, dropped 12 percent, and Europe, Africa and Middle East sales were down 9 percent.
Results from the Asia-Pacific region were hit particularly hard as dealer sales in the region fell 26 percent in the latest three months. Asia accounted for a quarter of Caterpillar's revenue in 2012. The company said it had an oversupply of products in China but hopes to sell off some of it by June.
Meanwhile, Latin America was the only positive region, where Caterpillar's sales went up by 3 percent.
For the fourth quarter, the company reported a 55 percent drop in profit, including a 7 percent fall in sales of power systems worldwide.
"We believe a tough comparison and still soft end-market backdrop are the primary drivers for the declines in machines and power systems," William Blair & Co. analyst Lawrence De Maria wrote in a note to clients.
Investors had been expecting the early months of this year to be weak for Caterpillar, according to Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold.
"Demand for Cat's bigger-ticket machines will be muted this year," Arnold told MarketWatch, adding that mining customers have ratcheted down capital spending on big projects.