Textron's (NYSE: TXT) earnings release on Thursday proved that the multi-industrial player is feeling few ill effects from the slowing U.S. economy. Continuing an impressive string of quarterly results, Textron posted a 19.2% jump in earnings as sales flew ahead 18.7%, and current trends were strong enough for management to boost full-year guidance by a nickel.

Textron runs a couple of enviable businesses, starting with its Cessna aircraft division, which reported a 28.7% quarterly sales improvement and 33.5% profit growth. Cessna is Textron's largest and highest-margin manufacturing segment.

In the finance division, quarterly revenue held steady and remained Textron's most profitable group, even though profits fell by more than 19%, as management set aside provisions for loan losses and saw higher borrowing costs as a result of the current credit crunch. Fortunately, though, this was one of the few areas to show stress from the shaky economic climate. Bell helicopter sales did fall 1%, but profits more than doubled to $53 million.

However, manufacturing heavy-duty machines takes significant fixed costs, and Textron is no exception in this area. Capital expenditures ate up more than half of its operating cash flow during the quarter. Perhaps it should consider selling or spinning off its low-margin industrial businesses to further boost margins -- a strategy that industry titans such as General Electric (NYSE: GE), United Technologies (NYSE: UTX), and Honeywell (NYSE: HON) continually employ. Any little bit helps for these capital-intensive operators, and staying lean could pay off, should the economic malaise go on for longer than expected.

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