After three years of sluggish economic performance, it's not surprising that General Electric's ( GE) chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, would declare this "the best economy in years." But that doesn't mean that economic growth is about to accelerate, or that GE is necessarily a good buy. The conglomerate, which makes everything from aircraft engines to light bulbs, surpassed analysts' earnings expectations by a penny in the second quarter and raised the low end of its annual guidance. But it was Immelt's comments on the economy that received the most attention. "This is the best economy we've seen in years," he said in a statement. "We are very confident about the future." In recent weeks, stocks have slumped amid signs that the overall economy is starting to decelerate. Manufacturing data slipped in June from May while same-store sales were generally mixed last month, with many retailers coming in below analysts' estimates. Job gains were also much weaker than expected in June. Immelt's upbeat remarks seemed to soothe investor concerns about a potential slowdown in growth. But some analysts said the comments weren't particularly meaningful. "Post-2000, we saw components of the industrial economy fall dramatically," said Robert Schenosky, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. "We saw some parts of the economy fall to levels we have not seen since the early 1980s, so ... that statement
by Immelt is not new information." Schenosky also noted that while some of GE's businesses are a proxy for certain end markets, the company isn't necessarily the best barometer for the health of the broader economy. "If you want to look for a proxy on the economy, I think there are better metrics out there," he said. Cody Willard, a partner in a buy-side firm and contributor to TheStreet.com's sister site, RealMoney, said he has no doubt that this is the best economy in years, given that the past three years included a "depression" in technology and telecom and a global economic downturn. "It doesn't take much good news to make this the best economy in years," he said. "It's worrisome that things are likely to get worse from the 'best.'"