Last week investors were extremely disappointed with America’s largest conglomerate GE, which released its quarterly earnings on Friday. The company earned $3.11 billion, or 28 cents a share, compared with $2.69 billion, or 25 cents, in the year-ago period. But revenues slipped by 4%, sending shares plummeting by more than 4% and it putting several sectors of the economy in which GE operates on notice.
On Wednesday, investors will be looking towards United Technologies (UTX) and its earnings report. While definitely not as well-known as GE, UTX is also a large, multinational manufacturer that makes everything from aircraft engines (under the Pratt & Whitney brand) to elevators (with the Otis name) to military equipment (including the Black Hawk helicopter). Unlike GE, UTX has virtually no exposure to the financial market, as it has does not have a capital division. This makes UTX more of a pure play on the broad industrial sector, and perhaps a better bellwether of the domestic manufacturing sector than its more broad-based rival [see All American ETF Options].
This is especially important given that a large majority of GE’s positive numbers came from the GE capital and health care divisions, while the aviation and manufacturing segments saw continuing downturns. GE reported that total service orders decreased 1%, while aviation equipment orders slid 8% and aviation service orders dropped 5%. “Airlines are still cautious about spending and pushing back as much maintenance work as they can,” said Richard Tortoriello, an analyst with Standard & Poor’s Equity Research. It will be interesting to see if UTX can buck the downward trend and generate growth in its military and aviation divisions for the most recent quarter.
Way To Play
With this crucial earnings report on tap, many industrial names look to be in focus throughout today’s trading. This includes the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Aerospace & Defense Index Fund (ITA), which tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Select Aerospace & Defense Index. The fund is one of the largest ETFs in the Industrials Equities ETFdb Category, with over 150,000 shares traded on an average day with just under $185 million in assets. The fund’s top holding is UTX, which makes up 8.2% of total assets, followed closely by Boeing (7.8%) and General Dynamics (6.1%). ITA is down slightly to date in 2010, but could climb back into the black if UTX can impress investors and set a positive path for the aerospace & defense sector [also read Rare Earth Metal Shortage Could Sink These Three ETFs].
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Disclosure: Eric is long ITA