NEW YORK (
is set to close out a big earnings week in the wee morning hours prior to Friday's opening bell.
Analysts are expecting Jeff Immelt & Co. to report earnings of 32 cents a share on revenue of $39.9 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31, and the giant industrial conglomerate has a seven-quarter streak of topping Wall Street's expectations on the line.
The thing is though traders seem to like to sell on the news when it comes to GE. The shares, which finished Thursday at $18.43, have lost 4-5% the last two times the company reported its results.
At current levels, the stock has gained 11% in the past 52 weeks, closing in on its 52-week high of $19.70 set back in mid-April 2010, but still a far cry from the $40 stock it was back in 2007. GE shares have been heavily traded throughout the week -- Thursday's volume reached 67.7 million, more than 20% above their trailing three-month daily average of 54.5 million -- but not necessarily on the buy side.
This company is in so many businesses that it's difficult to figure out where it has done well and where it hasn't. Plus GE is masterful at positive spin. It gave a 2011 outlook in December that took a cautious view of energy, specifically gas and wind turbines.
End markets that could perform well for the GE may be auto parts and oil and gas equipment. Investors will be anxious to hear talk about the chances for another dividend increase, while the big unknown continues to be the losses at GE Capital Services.
The other big name on the board Friday morning is GE's fellow Dow component
Bank of America
recommends the bank as the cheapest of the large-cap banks. But does cheap necessarily mean it's a better choice? Bank of America just announced a $2.8 billion settlement with
to settle claims of poor underwriting practices during the housing bubble.
The stock jumped on the news as many have viewed this as the beginning of the end of GSE problems, but the settlement won't cover all the expected legal expenses.
Judging by what we've seen from the other big banks, a release of reserves seems likely in order to put some lipstick on the numbers. Trading revenue should be down; again following what's been the trend for Wall Street's other leading lights. With the lack of competition, underwriting on the equity side should be a decent number. Everyone knows by now, fixed income underwriting bombed.
There will also be some fallout from
delivered its usual blowout earnings report but also unveiled changes at the top, saying it will install Larry Page as CEO in April.
will also be in focus after a shake-up of its board as the computer and printer giant
, including Meg Whitman and Patricia Russo.
reports early Friday as well. The stock is up 46% over the past six months and 68% since scraping a 52-week low of $51.67 on June 1.
Credit Suisse recently raised its 12-month price target on the stock to $98. The positive fundamental story is that a recovery in the United States will drive demand for energy. China is already sucking up as much oil as it can, while Brazil keeps trying to cool its economy.
Speculators have been pushing energy prices higher even though current demand levels have fallen. The company is expected to win more contracts in Iraq as the country continues to rebuild in spite of the continuing political turmoil.
There are no economic reports on Friday, but it is options expiration day. The pattern has been for market strength heading into expiration Friday with weakness during Friday and/or the following Monday. Volatility levels have been low and that shouldn't change with this round of expirations.
International events could continue to spook domestic markets. Students in the Netherlands are expected to demonstrate against cuts, while Germany's Ifo Institute releases its monthly index of business confidence. Europeans will be watching closely for this one.
And finally both the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
have seven-week streaks of gains on the line. Based on Thursday's close at 11,823, the blue-chip index has roughly 36 points to play with but the prognosis is grim for the S&P 500, which is down about 13 points.
If the morning is all about earnings, expect the afternoon to be all about football.
--Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.
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