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Ford Sets $5 Billion Stock Buyback

The repurchase is the largest in the auto giant's history.

With its shares depressed as it handles the recall of tires for its sport utility vehicles,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

on Thursday announced a $5 billion stock repurchase, the largest in its history.

Shares of the Detroit automaker, which has endeavored in recent years to build its image as a consumer-minded company, have fallen more than 12% since the recall was announced in August. They gained 31 cents, or 1%, to $25.63 in Thursday trading.

Also on Thursday, the company's chief financial officer, Henry Wallace, said that analysts' earnings estimates for the current quarter, around 50 to 52 cents a diluted share, "sound in the ballpark," according to Chris Vinyard, a company spokesman.

The company's board of directors met Thursday to assess the damage of the tire crisis and to plan strategy. Costs are growing in connection with the closure of three plants to free up more replacement tires.

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Analysts estimate that shutting down the factories will cost about $250 million in profits for the third quarter.

Wall Street had expected a buyback of about $4.3 billion, but the tire recall had diminished those hopes.

Ford Chief Executive Jacques Nasser recently argued before

Congress

that tire failures on Explorers are the fault of manufacturer

Bridgestone/Firestone

.

In his first public statement since the Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires, Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. said Thursday that "there is nothing more important than customers' safety and their trust in Ford Motor Co. and its products -- nothing."