) -- Perhaps the biggest surprise among the profusion of auto industry numbers that surfaced Thursday was this one:
(GM - Get Report)
shares fell 4%.
The oddity was that GM not only reported a
strong 18% August sales increase
, but also said it has gained market share since it
emerged from bankruptcy
The stock price decline was apparently prompted largely by a
story that said the company faces a pension shortfall up to $35 billion, which could delay a dividend or stock buyback.
Still, GM stock is down 37% for the year. It is down 34% since opening at $35 in November, during an IPO that accompanied the company's emergence from bankruptcy.
On Thursday, the shares gave up $1 to close at $23.03. "The stock shouldn't be trading at $23," said Standard & Poor's analyst Efraim Levy, after reiterating a strong buy.
(F - Get Report)
shares are down 36% for the year; on Thursday, they closed down 27 cents at 10.85.
GM's decline comes despite an 18% year-to-date sales gain and second-quarter earnings of $2.5 billion, marking the sixth consecutive profitable quarter. The company has nearly $34 billion in cash.
The market share gains are significant, given that many expected a continuing share loss following a restructuring when GM went from eight brands to four.
In 2009, GM board member Stephen Girsky said the company hoped to maintain a market share slightly above 19% upon emergence. In August, the U.S. market share was close to 20% and the year-to-date market share was 19.6%, said Don Johnson, vice president for U.S. sales, on the company's sales call Thursday.
In an interview, Levy said a "meaningful proportion" of GM's market share gains -- he wouldn't specify further than that -- results from the decline in availability of Japanese cars following the March earthquake and tsunami.
"GM benefitted from the misfortune of Japanese competitors -- that was a factor," Levy said. "But they did some things right as well. They have some good products that came to market at the right time."
A variety of auto analysts believe that investors are
ignoring the GM story
So permit us to promote a theory.