CEO Jeff Immelt must be practicing for a political career with all his flip flopping lately.
After the big gaffe on the sanctity of the GE dividend just before it was cut earlier this year, Immelt now is sowing confusion about GE's outlook.
Last week, he was upbeat about GE's prospects, at least in terms of the health of the company's finance business and its ability to raise money. This week, he says growth will be "harder to come by" for GE as the global economy expands at a slower pace.
He's certainly got the bases covered: GE is in good shape, but the economy isn't. So don't blame Immelt if GE doesn't show some gains soon. Of course, if there's an upside surprise, he'll be happy to take the credit.
This tactic isn't inspiring much confidence. All we need now is for a few more major executives to sound the alarm and we can watch the consumer confidence index plummet again. These things have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies, don't you know.
The whole recession-recovery cycle is governed in large measure by the vibe consumers pick up from global business and government leaders. It's a confidence thing. If we feel confident, we spend. If we are worried, we save.
That's why President Obama keeps giving so many upbeat speeches. Consumers need some kind of diversion from all the negativity.
Maybe Obama can get some of the executives at the banks he controls to come out with some optimistic statements. We're about due for some upside surprises about second-quarter earnings from
Bank of America
. They played that game very well back at the start of the year.
Immelt, however, seems to be playing a different game. His pessimism may be a misguided effort to lower investor expectations so that he can more easily beat them. He must be feeling desperate to get GE's share price back up. The stock is down about 20% so far this year and at $13, the shares are less than half the 52-week high of $31.
Personally, I don't think confusing investors and consumers is such a great plan.
We're getting enough mixed messages from the politicians -- and the line between government and business is blurry enough already.
Hall is the editor of
. Previously, he served as deputy editor and chief innovation officer at
The Orange County Register
and as a news manager at
in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Washington, D.C. As a reporter, he covered business and financial markets, worked in both print and television in the U.S. and Europe, and conducted in-depth investigative coverage at
in Fort Wayne, Ind. His work also has been published in a variety of newspapers including
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
International Herald Tribune
. Hall received a bachelor�s degree in journalism and political science from The Ohio State University and has taken graduate management science courses at Boston University.