The S&P/ASX 200 index (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has closed down 0.1% at 4,343.7, sliding gradually throughout the day after a positive start. The SPI futures and overseas markets suggested we were in for a strong start, and that’s what we got – until news came out that China’s big industrial companies were struggling, with profits falling 2.7% in the seven months to end of July 2012. More evidence that the world’s biggest economy is experiencing slower growth could be bad news for Australia’s exporters.

These three large cap companies reported earnings recently, and the results were mixed.

Caltex Australia Limited (ASX: CTX) today reported a 74% increase in net profit for the first half to $197 million, in line with the company’s recent guidance. The company recently announced that it was closing its Kurnell oil refinery, which will result in the loss of 630 jobs. The site will instead be used as a major import terminal. Caltex shares fell slightly to close at $15.27.

Toll Holdings (ASX: TOL)  shares fell 0.9% to close at $4.51, after reporting a 76% fall in full year net profit to $71 million. The transport company is suffering from weak demand for air and ocean freight carriers and excess capacity in the sector. Toll has also been hit by weak consumer sentiment in retail markets, which has resulted in falling freight volumes. The company was positive on its outlook, saying recent contract wins would support long-term earnings growth.

Mineral sands producer, Iluka Resources (ASX: ILU) has seen its shares rise 3.4% to end at $9.93, after reporting last week that the company’s average revenue per tonne for zircon, rutile and synthetic rutile was $2,255 in the first half on this year. The company estimates its cash costs of production at $750 a tonne this year, giving it a healthy margin – for now. Shares in Iluka have been slammed since April, when it was regularly trading over $17, after the company issued two profit downgrades within two months, due to falling demand for its products.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn’t own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool‘s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Take Stock is The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription, whilst it’s still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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