As for Friday's scheduled news, Ford Motor (F) gets the spotlight treatment here. The car maker is due to report its first-quarter results before the opening bell, and the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for earnings of 35 cents a share in the March-ended period on revenue of $31.46 billion.
The stock is up 9% so far in 2012, but it hasn't done much in the past year, ranging between a low of $9.05 on Oct. 4 and a high of $15.70 in late April 2011. At current levels, Ford trades at forward price-to-earnings multiple of 6.9X, a bit pricier than General Motors (GM), which trades at a forward P/E of 5.1X.
Ford takes the checkered flag when it comes to returning cash to shareholders though with a 1.8% forward annual dividend yield vs. zilch for GM.
Allan Mulally & Co. are coming off the best March for U.S. sales in five years after moving 223,418 vehicles, up 5% from last year, last month. The Ford Fusion had its best month ever with sales totaling 28,562 units. The company sold a total of 539,247 vehicles in the first quarter, up 9% from last year, with its most fuel-efficient models leading the charge.The sell side is bullish ahead of the report with 14 of the 19 analysts covering Ford at either strong buy (5) and buy (9), and the 12-month median price target sitting at $16, implying potential upside of 35% from Thursday's close at $11.87. S&P Capital IQ reiterated a buy rating ahead of the report, saying it expects the company's profit picture to brighten as the year progresses and into 2013. The firm is above consensus, forecasting earnings of 39 cents a share for the quarter, and it expects a profit of $1.46 a share for the whole of 2012 on revenue of $144 billion. "We expect underlying profit improvement in the key U.S. market to be masked by accounting changes that increase F's tax rate in '12, as well as by losses in Europe and lower financial services profits," wrote analyst Efraim Levy in a preview on Wednesday. "However, adjusting for the tax changes, we project a resumption of year-over-year profit growth starting in Q3. Longer term, F is positioning for higher future profits via its investments in China." Levy is looking for revenue to rise nearly 10% in 2013 with earnings per share seen increasing by 17%. Check out TheStreet's quote page for Ford for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.
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