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General Motors' (GM) - Get General Motors Company Report second-quarter earnings rose 49% from a year ago, boosted by record results in its finance arm and improved automotive earnings.

The No. 1 automaker earned $1.34 billion, or $2.36 a share, in the three months to June 30, compared with earnings of $901 million, or $1.58 a share, last year. Revenue rose 7.1% to $49.1 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had been forecasting earnings of $2.24 a share in the most recent quarter.

GM said its global-automotive earnings totaled $529 million in the second quarter of 2004, up from $140 million a year ago. Earnings rose in North America, Asia Pacific, and the Latin America/Africa/Mid-East region, while GM's loss widened in Europe.

The company's finance unit, GMAC, earned $860 million in the quarter, up from $834 million a year ago. Finance earnings rose 14% to $452 million, while mortgage unit earnings fell to $333 million from $415 million last year, reflecting lower volume and margins. GM's insurance unit earned $75 million in the quarter, up from $23 million a year ago.

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"GMAC continues to do an outstanding job managing its global portfolio of businesses," the company said. "Its auto-financing business, in addition to supporting GM sales, is turning in strong profitability around the globe. Insurance earnings are strengthening, and mortgage earnings, while understandably lower, still remain solid."

GM expects to earn 75 cents to to $1 a share in the third quarter, excluding special items. For the year, the company expects to earn $7 a share, excluding items. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of 98 cents a share in the quarter and $7.12 a share in the year.