General Electric Co. said Friday its first-quarter earnings fell by almost a third, weighed down by its GE Capital lending unit and lower profits in its big industrial divisions.
The results still beat Wall Street expectations and CEO Jeff Immelt said the company sees encouraging economic signs. Its shares rose almost 3 percent in premarket dealings.
GE says that losses are moderating within GE Capital, which have been a big source of GE's recent problems. GE Capital's overall profit fell 41 percent in the quarter, a sign that worries in areas like commercial real estate persist.
The conglomerate earned $1.9 billion, or 17 cents per share, in the January-March period, down from $2.74 billion, or 26 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue fell 5 percent to $36.6 billion.
Excluding $390 million in losses from one-time items, GE's earnings from continuing operations were $2.4 billion, or 21 cents a share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 16 cents a share on higher revenue of $37.1 billion.
Its shares rose 54 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $20.04 in premarket trading.
GE is considered an indicator of the well-being of the broader economy. The company makes industrial products ranging from light bulbs to wind turbines, and is a big lender to businesses and consumers.
The company hopes that those industrial units will lead it out of last year's recession, and is billing 2010 as a year of transition to renewed growth next year.
But the first quarter results suggest that recovery may take a while to gather steam. Industrial sales were down 2 percent in the quarter on lower sales of jet engines and train locomotives, outweighing better results for products like medical imaging machine and power plant turbines.
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