Investors on Friday will be looking for any bright signs of growth when General Electric reports first-quarter earnings after disappointing them for the last five quarters, but it's news about plans for its expanding energy business and any discussion of activist shareholders that'll be the most likely to be attention grabbers.

Analysts polled by FactSet Research expect the company to earn 15 cents a share, excluding any special items, compared to 21 cents a share a year ago.

FactSet's current consensus analyst revenue estimate is $26.37 billion; below first quarter 2016's $27.60 billion, and perhaps more importantly, below FactSet's December 30, $27.42 billion consensus.

The estimates matter, because the stock has suffered in the past at the hands of disappointed investors, falling after earnings reports fo the last five quarters.In March the firm disclosed a new industrial operating profit target of $17.2 billion for full-year 2017, consistent with its overall outlook for the year.

Also, the company is aiming to further reduce its manufacturing costs from a total of $24.9 billion in 2016 to $23.9 billion for 2017, down 4% year over year, with a goal of reaching $22.9 billion by 2018.

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