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General Electric lights up 'penny profit'

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 per cent, 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 per cent, 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 per cent 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 per cent in Europe in the quarter after falling 17 per cent 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.



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