NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Europe continues to send mixed signals, and Wall Street seems to be suffering from some early earnings fatigue, judging by the muted reaction to Thursday's late reports. One interesting factoid that underlines the market's current schizophrenia about Europe's prospects comes courtesy Dow Jones, which notes the Dow Jones Industrial Average currently has a streak of 10 straight sessions going where it's changed directions -- positive to negative or vice versa. That's the longest such run since an 11-session stretch that ended on May 19, 2009, when the market was still digesting its bounce off the financial crisis lows set in March of that year. What's it mean? No one feels all that comfortable with the big picture right now. The groundwork to move higher seems to be in place -- Europe's coming up with a plan, earnings are okay, the data is decent enough -- but there's nothing solid to hang your hat on either, and the prospect of a hard landing for China threatens to add more uncertainty to the mix. As for Friday, General Electric ( GE) is one of three Dow components reporting its quarterly results before the opening bell, along with McDonald's ( MCD) and Verizon ( VZ). The conglomerate led by CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who moonlights as President Obama's job czar, is expected to post earnings of 31 cents a share for its September-ended fiscal third quarter on revenue of $34.94 billion. GE shares closed Thursday at $16.63, down 9% so far in 2011, much worse than the Dow's flat performance for the year. GE typically beats Wall Street's quarterly view, and it's delivered an average upside surprise of 11% while topping the consensus in the past eight quarters. The sell side is bullish with 13 of the 17 analysts covering the stock at strong buy (5) or buy (8), and the 12-month median price target sitting at $20. With a forward annual dividend yield of 3.6% at current levels and a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 10.5X, the shares look pretty attractive from a valuation standpoint; the S&P 500 has a forward P-E ratio of 12.5X and a dividend yield of around 2.1%.
Gabelli & Co. is at buy on the stock, and it believes the company's many tentacles, traditionally a positive during times of market volatility, may be holding the valuation back. The easiest route to clarity for GE has always been to carve out the GE Capital financing business. "Currently, GE trades at a discount to its private market value given economic and financial concerns about its industrial and financing businesses and what we believe is its complex business structure," the firm said in a Sept. 26 research note when the stock was trading in the mid-$15 range. "We believe GE's industrial businesses will do well over time. Further, a separation of GE, including GE Capital and the various industrial businesses, could help unlock the hidden value in GE stock." Gabelli even laid out a plan, suggesting the company split into at least four units: Energy Infrastructure, Technology Infrastructure, Home and Business Solutions, and GE Capital. By its analysis, the parts look to be much more valuable than the current sum. Specifically, the firm estimates the private market value of GE's industrial businesses, basically everything but GE Capital, at $23 per share in 2012. That view reflects a cash balance of $10 billion, roughly a $1 per share, and a valuation of $18 billion for the NBC Universal stake, or $2 per share. Gabelli puts the adjusted book value of GE Capital at slightly negative (minus $1 per share). Hurdles to a separation (beyond the not-so-great GE Capital balance sheet), include GE's explicit guarantee of the interest on the debt issued by GE Capital, an income maintenance agreement between the 2 entities, and the fact that GE Capital provides financing for products made by the parent company's industrial businesses, but Gabelli still sees a chance. "To the extent that the above contractual and economic issues could be addressed, a separation could be a possibility," the firm said. Not a very likely scenario for tomorrow's report but something to think about nonetheless. The stock remains stuck well below pre-financial crisis levels, and after a while, dividend boosts won't be enough to placate the shareholder base. The other big names reporting on Friday include A.O. Smith ( AOS), Air Products & Chemicals ( APD), Harman International ( HAR), Honeywell International ( HON), Kansas City Southern ( KSU), Manpower ( MAN), McClatchy ( MNI), Schlumberger ( SLB), SunTrust Banks ( STI), and YRC Worldwide ( YRCW), all before the opening bell. There's no significant economic data scheduled for Friday. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org