BOSTON (Reuters) - Shares of General Electric Co (GE.N) fell briefly below $10 on Thursday, their lowest point since late 1995, amid a broad sell-off in U.S. stocks.
The U.S. conglomerate’s shares closed at $10.06, down 49 cents or 4.6 percent, after earlier notching a low of $9.95 cents. They have been as high as $38.52 in the last 52 weeks.
GE shares have lost almost 70 percent of their value over the past year amid investor concerns over the effect of the credit crunch on GE Capital, GE’s financial unit.
Financial-sector stocks dragged the U.S. markets lower on Thursday, as investors fretted about the future of the beleaguered banking sector. Shares of Bank of America (BAC.N) fell 14 percent and Citigroup (C.N) closed down 13.8 percent. The KBW Bank Index .BKX ended down 6.8 percent.
“All that stuff that is going on in the financial world is tarnishing them,” said Peter Klein, senior portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management in Cleveland, Ohio. “It’s just lack of confidence that we’re going to come out of this downturn any time soon.”
Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE, regarded as an economic bellwether, has been working to reduce its dependence on its GE Capital finance unit, though efforts to sell off parts of that portfolio have proved unsuccessful during the credit crunch.
GE has underperformed the broader U.S. markets over the past year. Its 68.4 percent tumble is more dramatic than the 41.5 percent slide of the broad Standard & Poor's 500 index .SPX or the 38.8 percent fall of the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average .DJI.
The shares are now down more than 75 percent since Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Immelt took the reins in September 2001. Immelt said earlier this week he declined any bonuses for 2008, a year when GE’s profit fell 22 percent.
GE earlier this month said it would evaluate its planned second-half dividend, leaving open a possibility that it would reduce the quarterly payout of 31 cents per share.
It also faces the possibility that its coveted triple-A credit rating will be cut. Both Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service have put their top-notch ratings of the company on review.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernard Orr and Matthew Lewis