Stock Market Today: GE's Profit Boost and Morgan Stanley's $1.2 Billion Expense

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Expect a solid start to the stock market today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) gained 41 points in premarket trading this morning. Upbeat comments from General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) could help push the Dow back into record territory, as the conglomerate described an improving global economy. Meanwhile, news is breaking this morning on a few other stocks that may see heavy trading in today's session, including Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) and SunTrust Banks (NYSE: STI  ) .

General Electric said today that its fourth-quarter profit jumped by 20% to $0.53 a share. Sales were 3% higher in the quarter, clocking in at $40.4 billion as the conglomerate benefited from a 5% rise in its industrial business. GE CEO Jeff Immelt described the global economic environment as "mixed but improving," with emerging markets and the U.S. strengthening while Europe lags. Drilling deeper into its results, GE's oil and gas business was a standout performer, logging a 17% sales gain and a 24% boost in profit. GE ended the quarter with a record $244 billion order backlog. The stock is down 1% in premarket trading.

Morgan Stanley today posted fourth-quarter earnings results in which revenue rose by 11%, to $7.8 billion. However, profit dove to $0.07 a share from the $0.33 it booked last year as a legal settlement cleaved $1.2 billion from net income. Still, the investment bank saw improvements in each of its three major business lines, including in the securities division, where a big boost in initial public offerings drove up underwriting revenue. The stock is up 2% in premarket trading.

Finally, SunTrust this morning booked an 18% rise in profit for its fiscal fourth quarter. Per-share earnings jumped to $0.77 from $0.65 a year ago, while revenue rose 7% to $2.1 billion. SunTrust saw healthy growth across its portfolio of loan businesses, while overall credit quality continued to improve -- hitting its best level since the second quarter of 2007. And, in contrast to bigger banks, SunTrust actually saw its mortgage servicing business rise in the quarter. The stock is up 2.8% in premarket trading.

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