NEW YORK — General Electric posted a slight gain in net income in the second quarter and said its U.S. operations are picking up steam.
GE said Friday that it earned $3.13 billion, up from $3.11 billion a year earlier. On a per share basis, the company earned 30 cents, up from 29 cents. Revenue fell 4 percent, to $35.12 billion from $36.5 billion.
Adjusted to reflect earnings from continuing operations, GE earned 36 cents per share. That's 2 cents less than adjusted earnings last year, but one cent better than analysts polled by FactSet had expected. GE shares rose $1.07, or 4.6 percent, to $24.70 in early trading. They went as high as $24.85, the highest intraday level since September of 2008.
GE, based in Fairfield, Conn., has a broad view of the global economy because it sells a wide variety of industrial equipment and appliances around the world, including jet engines, medical diagnostic equipment, locomotives, washing machines, natural gas-fired turbines, and oil and gas drilling equipment.
CEO Jeff Immelt said the economic environment in the U.S. brightened, although he still described it as "mixed." That marks an improvement from recent quarters, when Immelt expressed caution about the U.S. market.
"Orders in the U.S. were the strongest in some time," Immelt said on a conference call with investors. He said orders grew 20 percent in the U.S. in the quarter.
Immelt said emerging markets remained strong and that Europe has steadied, but remained weak. GE's orders grew 2 percent in Europe in the quarter after falling 17 percent in the first quarter, helped by oil and gas orders in the North Sea and aviation equipment and services.
"In the GE world at least (Europe) seems to have stabilized," Immelt said.
Immelt said he expects profits to grow in the second half of the year.
The company's total orders for new business rose $7 billion, or 4 percent, last quarter to a record $223 billion. Orders for oil and gas drilling equipment and energy management equipment showed especially strong growth; orders for transportation and power and water equipment fell.
GE is in the midst of transforming itself in to a company more focused on industrial businesses. It's been shedding media and other non-industrial divisions and shrinking its banking division.
Profit margins for industrial segments rose 0.5 percent in the quarter and remain on track to post growth of 0.7 percent for the full year, GE said. GE Capital earnings fell 9 percent for the year.
Christian Mayes, an analyst at Edward Jones, called the quarter "ho-hum" but noticed some encouraging signs for GE. Revenue slipped at the company's power and water division, which sells and services gas-fired turbines, wind turbines, and water treatment equipment, but the division's profits returned to more normal levels after a first quarter he called "a mess."
He was also encouraged by the improved outlook for the U.S., echoing recent comments by other industrial companies, and by GE's push to further improve profit margins later this year.
"The back half of the year should be better for GE," he said.
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