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) -- A new analyst report says that



relatively weak position in emerging markets is not necessarily a drag on its earnings potential.

"Despite BRIC hype, the U.S. remains the key near-term global market," largely because profit margins are higher, wrote UBS analyst Colin Langan, who reiterated a buy on Ford. While the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China "have important long-term strategic value for automakers, the near term potential for BRIC to drive results remains limited relative to the U.S. recovery opportunity," he said.

Even though China is now the world's largest auto market in terms of unit sales, the U.S. market still provides 20% more revenue, Langan said. The average transaction price in the U.S. is $27,000, he said, while the average transaction price in China is $16,000 and the average in India is $8,000. Moreover, new car prices in China are falling due to increased competition.

To the extent that the U.S. market provides better margins than the Chinese market, Ford benefits relative to rival

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General Motors

, which is the market leader in China. GM said this week that in October, it became the first global automaker to sell

two million vehicles in China in a single year.

According to Global Insight, GM has a 14% share in China, making it the country's largest automaker. Ford ranks thirteenth, with a 3.5% share. Ford has made

growth in China and India a top priority. But looking ahead to 2015, Global Insight sees GM's share declining to 12.3%, still the biggest, while Ford's share grows modestly to 3.7%.

That doesn't sound so great, even though Ford has grown from a miniscule 0.3% share in 2000, but Langan said it doesn't matter. "Given our view that BRIC will not provide a substantial growth opportunity in the next five years, and that Ford's strong product launch schedule and continued market share gains make it the most levered to the US recovery, our analysis supports our buy rating on the company," he wrote.

In early trading Friday, Ford shares were down 12 cents to $16.49.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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Ted Reed