Updated from 8:25 a.m. ESTEarnings and sales both surged 18% from a year ago in General Electric's ( GE) fourth quarter, as "Meet the Fockers" helped the conglomerate reprise its old habit of beating earnings estimates. GE earned $5.38 billion, or 51 cents a share in the quarter, compared with $4.56 billion, or 45 cents a share a year ago. Revenue climbed to $43.71 billion from $36.96 billion. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of 50 cents a share on revenue of $42.09 billion, according to Thomson First Call. "We're going into 2005 with excellent momentum." GE said in a statement. "We are very confident about achieving 10% to 15% earnings growth with strong cash flow growth and sustaining this growth into 2006 as well." The company said it expects 2005 earnings of between $1.76 to $1.83 a share, raising the lower end of its previous range. GE earned $1.59 a share for 2004. For the first quarter, it expects earnings of between 36 cents to 37 cents a share, up from last year's 32 cents a share for the same quarter. The shares were recently adding 45 cents, or 1.3%, to $35.82. "There's no surprises here," said Lawrence Horan, analyst with Parker/Hunter. (He does not own GE shares, and his firm has no banking relationship with the company.) "They came in a penny better than expectations, but their tax rate was lower this year, which gave them a little boost. "GE is now back in the double-digit growth mode, and probably will be for quite some time," Horan added. "I think Immelt's optimism is genuine." Of GE's 11 business lines, only energy and insurance saw revenue fall in the fourth quarter compared with the year-ago period. The best performers were consumer finance, where revenue jumped 22% from last year to $4.3 billion; health care, where revenue rose 28% to $4.3 billion; and advanced materials, where revenue rose 21% to $2.3 billion. Commercial finance, the biggest division, saw sales jump 12% to $6.3 billion. The company's best profit performer was NBC Universal, where "Meet the Fockers" produced $225 million of box office revenue in its first four weeks of theatrical release. Fourth-quarter earnings at the entertainment segment surged 60% from a year ago to $860 million.