In a post of 24 March a sometimes contributor to this space wrote:
"Amongst all the turmoil in the credit markets one major player has been conspicuously quiet. This despite some aggressive practices in the GE Money division which includes home loans there has been barely a peep, granted they sold a US sub-prime mortgage business last year but one does wonder that given their huge asset base and financing requirements that no mention has been made good or bad as to their funding position."
Today GE reported quarterly earnings off 6% due mainly to a dire performance in its Financial Services division where net earnings fell 21%. Simply, credit turmoil prevented asset sales and GE (probably) took the opportunity to clear the decks with large impairment and mark-to-market losses. But there were also disastrous profit declines at this scribe's former employer GE Healthcare (-17%) and Industrial (-16%).
Already some are taking this as proof that GE Infrastructure, the star this quarter, ought to be spun out. Yet the key point is not whether conglomeration is working the 'GE Way'; but what this says about the macro economic picture. On this front CEO Jeff Immelt presents a revenue case that supports the decoupling arguments: non US growth was comfortably double digit across "virtually every business".
What is left is a sharp US divide between the financial and non-financial; how the travails of the first are creeping into the performance of the second; and how badly the rest of the world will be affected.
That's confirmation, not addition, to the known dangers still not fully accepted in equity markets. Dow and SPX futures have sunk hard (-120 & -15 respectively) in partial acknowledgement.
UPDATE: FT coverage of the conf call.