For General Electric, 'how' of Q1 earnings may trump 'how much'

General Electric
General Electric

What a quarter it has been for General Electric (GE). Manufacturer of everything from light bulbs to nuclear reactors, it has seen its stock fall 25 percent so far this year -- and that's including a six-week-long surge in which it has nearly doubled in price. It has lost its vaunted "AAA" debt rating and given investors a glimpse into its huge finance arm, once the source of half the company's profits but more recently, the cause of may of its woes.

After all that, analysts expect GE to report a first-quarter profit of 21 cents a share tomorrow morning, less than half of what it posted a year ago. For investors, how GE gets there may be more important than the number itself.