You say Alcoa is a leading indicator? Intel's got the best clues for tech performance? JPMorgan tells us the health of the banking industry? Perhaps, but if you ask me, there's no better proxy for the U.S. economy in general, and for its stock market, than General Electric
What analysts say:
- Buy, sell, or waffle? Blue Horseshoe loves GE. Out of the 16 analysts expressing an opinion on the stock, 10 say they'd buy it today. GE has a half-dozen holds, but nary a "sell" rating.
- Revenue. Yet for all the positive thinking, these analysts don't expect GE to report any revenue growth whatsoever tomorrow; actually, they're looking for a 0.4% downtick to $37.67 billion.
- Earnings. On the other hand, profits could come in at $0.27 a share, up from $0.22 last year.
What management says:
A nickel's worth of growth? That hardly seems enough for a company that, up until the Great Recession at least, regularly vied with the likes of Wal-Mart
Last week, the company announced a return to "playing offense." It's buying $1.6 billion worth of Citigroup
What management does:
That's a massive influx of new revenue streams -- producing earnings at what could be pretty good margins. Although the company's net remains burdened by asset writedowns and losses from discontinued operations, gross and operating margins are on a pronounced uptrend:
All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.
One Fool says:
Last month, Citigroup upgraded GE shares in a report that spoke glowingly of the company's GE Capital division -- the same division that's been writing down assets all through the Great Recession. The same division to which Citigroup just sold $1.6 billion worth of credit card receivables. According to Citi, GE Capital's so cool, it's going to grow earnings 50% next year, driving profits growth for the rest of the company.
I'm not saying there was a quid pro quo going on here, because GE is clearly gaining strength, but the praise seemed effusive to me. We will find out tomorrow and in the coming quarters whether Citi's faith in GE Capital was dead-on or misplaced.