GE shares are doing something unusual and very disappointing

Even as the Dow Jones industrial average trades around all-time high levels, General Electric's stock is suffering a miserable 2017. In the midst of this historically notable underperformance, some portfolio managers see further downside ahead for the industrial giant, and are advising investors to stay away.

GE shares have sunk 21 percent so far this year, while the Dow has risen more than 11 percent. This 32 percentage point lag for the Dow component company is the largest seen in at least the past 45 years, according to a CNBC analysis of FactSet data.

A high concentration of GE's revenue comes from oil and gas, and energy prices will likely continue to sink over the next 2½ years, said Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors. This will in turn have a "meaningful impact" on the company's revenue, which in part fuels Morganlander's bearish view.

"If you go out five, seven years, potentially you'd want to be buying it. But we think that you could find a better entry point at this time. So we would go with other industrials," he said Wednesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation," and might take a look at related names like Honeywell, United Technologies or 3M.

Still, there could be a turnaround ahead for the oldest Dow component, said Max Wolff, chief economist at Disruptive Technology Advisers. The company's new leadership adds to his bullish outlook, and he likes the name longer term as he believes GE will become more "defined" with time.

"It's really been a hard story for GE to redefine itself in the market, and they haven't done a perfect job on that process. They're kind of pivoting to being a major industrial tech company; we think that's part of where the U.S. economy is going," Wolff said on "Trading Nation."

Wolff likes its positioning as a company, but said it's been a "long, hard road for them to stop being a finance company, when that became a pretty undesirable corner of the market, and then they became kind of undefined. You see this problem a little bit with IBM, too. We do think they eventually define themselves in a more tech light." In the meantime, Wolff, added, the GE still offers investors a solid dividend.

Shares of GE have hit a series of 52-week lows, falling on Thursday to the lowest level since October 2015. The Dow, meanwhile, is close to record highs.

Based on 45 years' worth of data, 2017 marks the first year in which the Dow has closed within 1 percent of a 52-week closing high on the same day that GE shares closed within 1 percent of a 52-week low. This has suddenly become a regular occurrence, happening 29 times since May, according to a CNBC analysis of FactSet data.

A true stalwart of the Dow, GE is the only stock now a part of the 30-stock index that was also a component when the index was created in 1896.

Disclosure: Chad Morganlander does not personally own shares of Honeywell, United Technologies or 3M, but he does own them for clients.

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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

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