Caterpillar Inc. said first-quarter earnings fell 37% because of slower spending both in the U.S. and overseas. Net income fell to $162 million from $258 million in the year-ago quarter.

The Peoria, IL-based company said worldwide sales volume decreased 2%. Selling, general and administrative expenses increased 6.5%. Interest expense, excluding financial products, rose 9.9%.

Caterpillar chairman Glen Barton said the company expects full-year profits to drop about 5% to 10% and full-year sales to be little changed. He said he doubts global economic expansion in the second half will be as significant as Cat had projected in January.

“Our first-quarter results reflect continued difficult business conditions around the world, but are in line with our expectations for a weaker first half,” Barton said. “Accordingly, we are reaffirming our January outlook for 2001.”

While a number of business sectors, such as truck engines, were weak spots for the company, Barton said the company is encouraged by an upturn in coal mining, heavy construction and oil and gas, and the ongoing strength of electric power and financial services.

“Our diversity continues to serve us well in these times of global economic challenge,” Barton said.