GE has seen only 1 thing that warns of falling demand in 2023

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“The only thing we have seen, and this is in a proprietary view, Deane, is obviously, freight has softened here as the short-cycle economy has done the same.”


— GE CEO Larry Culp to RBC Capital Markets analyst Deane Dray

That’s General Electric Co. Chief Executive Larry Culp, who said Tuesday he was only seeing one demand indicator that suggests the U.S. economy was slowing. But that indicator was enough for the company to provide a 2023 earnings estimate below Wall Street expectations.

The aerospace, power and renewable energy company reported before Tuesday’s opening bell fourth-quarter profit, revenue and free cash flow that beat expectations.

In GE’s
GE,
+1.15%
post-earnings conference call with analysts, RBC Capital Markets analyst Deane Dray asked, given the uncertain outlook for the economy, whether the company noticed any “meaningful changes” in demand.

“The only thing we have seen, and this is in a proprietary view, Deane, is obviously, freight has softened here as the short-cycle economy has done the same,” Culp responded, according to a transcript provided by AlphaSource/Sentio.

GE has exposure to the freight industry in a number of ways, including power conversion products used by marine and rail transport companies, and jet engines used by cargo carriers.

Culp’s comment came as railroad operator Union Pacific Corp.
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-3.14%
reported Tuesday fourth-quarter profit and revenue that missed expectations, citing headwinds from continued challenges in hiring, inflation and extreme winter weather.

GE said in its fourth-quarter report that it expected adjusted 2023 earnings per share to rise to $1.60 to $2.00 from 77 cents in 2022, but that outlook was below the FactSet consensus of $2.37. Meanwhile, the 2023 growth outlook for organic revenue, which excludes results from assets recently acquired or sold, is in the “high single-digits” percentage range, compared with 6% growth in 2022.

While inflation was certainly a challenge for GE in the fourth quarter, it was only really a problem for GE’s renewable energy business, which saw revenue fall 18.6% and losses widen by 45.5%.

For GE Aerospace, the company said “price net of cost inflation was positive,” and for Power, GE saw “price exceeding cost inflation.” GE HealthCare Technologies Inc.
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+0.36%,
which completed its separation from the company on Jan. 3, will report results on Jan. 30.

Yet GE’s stock
GE,
+1.15%
edged up 0.2% in afternoon trading Tuesday, but swung from a loss of as much 2.9% to a gain of as much as 0.9% in intraday trading. It has soared 39.6% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 index
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has gained 5.9%.