Given the recent volatility in the market, many of us investors feel a bit like Charlie Brown. You know the game where Charlie runs up to kick the football, only to see Lucy pull it away at the last second? Some of us were just regaining our confidence after the last market rout, and now we find ourselves humbled once more.
There's a refuge for you, newly bruised Fool. It's not Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) -- that company's purchase of Countrywide Financial (NYSE: CFC ) raises too many unknowns for me. It's not even my beloved energy sector, since stalwarts like ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) and Petrobras (NYSE: PBR ) have gotten clocked in 2008. No, this investing oasis is a little company called General Electric (NYSE: GE ) .
GE is operationally strong, as demonstrated by its fourth-quarter and annual results. Infrastructure, which is GE's largest segment, led the way with 26% quarterly profit growth and 22% growth for the full year. Global aviation, power generation, and oil and gas -- there are tremendous tailwinds in all of these markets. Overall, GE's earnings visibility is high, as evidenced by a 42% burst in the order backlog. The firm is aiming for at least 10% earnings growth in 2008, more than three times the World Bank's forecast for American GDP growth.
GE's operational strength is supported by its financial fortitude. In December, the firm noted that it was one of only a handful of industrial firms with an AAA-rated balance sheet. You might think that's of interest only to fuddy-duddy bond investors, but GE's utterly remote risk of credit default gives the company a tremendous borrowing-cost advantage. This becomes all the more valuable when the credit market goes cuckoo and it's suddenly crunch o'clock.