Why UBS Is Growing More Cautious About General Electric

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has seen its share of volatility in recent years. After peaking before the Great Recession, even during the great recovery this conglomerate never came close to recapturing its old highs. And its recent trends during and after the Jeff Immelt era have been much less than positive.

Despite all the ongoing risks and poor performance of 2018, GE shares actually had risen more than 40% coming into mid-July. While that is a recovery after a disastrous prior period, GE somehow managed to have double the performance of the Dow Jones industrials and S&P 500 gains so far this year.

The research team at UBS has said it’s time to take a breather on GE. The firm downgraded its rating on the conglomerate to Neutral from Buy. Analyst Damian Karas also lowered his target to $11.50 from $13.00 in Monday’s report.

Investors sometimes ignore analyst downgrades that are based on valuation or relative performance metrics. Monday’s report sounds cautious on the surface, but there may be a bright side in the note:

We are downgrading GE to Neutral, as a notable decline in interest rates and ongoing power market weakness drive our more balanced valuation upside/downside being 1:1. After the stock’s circa-20% relative outperformance year-to-date and the alleviation of bottomless cash pit scenarios dominating the narrative, we believe that we can start to look increasingly at the multi-year turnaround/transformation.

Still, there is some caution, given the economy and interest rate environment. Karas also worries about ongoing weakness in GE’s power market, and the firm is backing down from a prior bullish stance now that the shares had recovered so much on a relative basis this year.

GE shares closed up 2.6% at $10.37 on Friday before this UBS call was made. Its shares were trading down by almost 1.5% at $10.22 on Monday morning, but the 21 million shares that had traded by 12:30 Eastern Time was still considerably less than half of a normal day’s trading volume.

GE has a 52-week trading range of $6.40 to $13.41. The consensus target price ahead of this formal rating and target downgrade was $12.69.