General Electric Breaks Losing Streak, Still DJIA’s Biggest Loser

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General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) shares fell more than 3% last week as the stock ran its streak of new 52-week lows to nine consecutive days. The streak ended Friday when the stock posted a 1% pickup. For the week, however, the year-to-date loss rose by about two points to 36.3%, to hold onto GE’s ranking as the worst performing equity on the Dow Jones Industrial Average index (DJIA).

This is GE’s 16th consecutive week as the Dow’s worst performer. The company still has a big lead over the second worst stock, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), down 11.2% for the year, and third-worst International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), now down 8.7%. Only seven of the 30 Dow stocks have traded down so far this year.

For the first time in more than five years, GE stock closed below $20 a share on Thursday. There does not appear to have been an event or rumor that weighed on the stock last week, but more a rush for the exits following a price target cut by analyst Stephen Tusa at JPMorgan.

Tusa was the first to cut GE’s 12-month target to $20, and he chopped that to $19 following the company’s third-quarter earnings report and lowered guidance. On Wednesday he cut his 12-month target to $17.

That last cut was likely based on a higher probability that GE will soon have to announce a cut to its $0.96 annual dividend. At Friday’s closing price, that’s a yield of 4.5%. On the company’s conference call, the chief financial officer noted that third-quarter operating cash flow was adversely affected by lower-than-expected earnings in the Power division and “underperformance in working capital.”

When CEO John Flannery reveals his strategy on November 13, the only surprise most analysts expect is how much he will slice from the dividend. Still, when the stock price dipped below $20 it brought out some buyers, as Friday’s gain indicated.

GE’s shares closed up 1% Friday, at $20.14 in a 52-week trading range of $19.63 to $32.38. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $25.73, down 20 cents from last week’s target. The price target range is $17 to $36.

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