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GE Meets Targets, Backs Views

Earnings from continuing operations rise 15% at the industrial giant.
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General Electric (GE) - Get General Electric Company Report posted a 15% rise in fourth-quarter earnings from continuing operations, meeting Wall Street's expectations, as results were bolstered by strength in its infrastructure division.

The Connecticut-based conglomerate's profit from continuing operations climbed to $6.82 billion, or 68 cents a share, from $5.95 billion, or 58 cents a share, a year earlier. The per-share results matched the Thomson Financial average analyst estimate.

Net earnings, which include the effect of discontinued businesses, rose 4% to $6.7 billion, or 66 cents a share, from $6.44 billion, or 63 cents a share.

Revenue jumped 18% to $48.59 billion from $41.28 billion the prior year. Analysts, on average, anticipated revenue of $47.28 billion.

The top-line growth was driven by GE's largest division, infrastructure, which posted a 30% surge in revenue to $17.34 billion. The segment includes businesses such as aviation, energy and transportation.

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The company's financial business, against the backdrop of overall market turbulence due to the mortgage meltdown, saw a 22% jump in revenue to $6.58 billion, but profits at the segment were hit by a $440 million increase in its loan loss provision. Commercial finance revenue rose 9% to $9.32 billion.

The report from the industrial giant, often seen as a bellwether for the U.S. economy, comes as fears of a U.S. recession have heightened and battered the stock market in recent weeks. GE emphasized that it has seen strong demand globally, and more than 50% of its revenue comes from outside the U.S.

GE's total orders were up 18% to $27 billion for the quarter, while total backlog grew $19 billion, or 42%, year-over-year.

For 2008, GE reiterated its forecast for earnings of at least $2.42 a share. It sees first-quarter earnings from continuing operations of 50 cents to 53 cents a share, bracketing analysts' average target of 51 cents.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.