Morgan Stanley equity analyst Adam Jonas lifted his rating on Ford two notches, to "overweight" with a price target of $15 per share and noted that President Donald Trump's mooted infrastructure plans could support the automaker's near-term earnings. He also suggested that Ford could surprise investors to the upside if its turnaround story improves and cost cuts and market repositioning moves are successful.
"In fact, we are raising our underlying earnings forecasts by the greatest amount in nearly five years," Jonas wrote in a March 14 research note. "Our revised target gives Ford credit for adjusting its global portfolio to emphasize its strong position in U.S. pickup trucks, where the company has outsized exposure."
Morgan Stanley forecast earnings of $1.44 per share for 2018, an increase of four cents from their previous estimate. It raised its 2019 EPS guidance by 20 cents to $1.26 a share and raised its 2020 forecast from $1.07 to $1.33.
Ford shares rose about 3.7% to $11.18 at 11 a.m, as investors appeared to be more focused on the double upgrade than the recall of 1.38 million vehicles, including Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ. EST. The stock climbed as much as 5.9% in premarket trading. The last tiem Ford rose more in a daily session was on February 6, when it gained 5%.
Morgan Stanley's view on Ford follows a downbeat assessment from Goldman Sachs last week, which warned that Trump's decision to slap a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% levy on non-American aluminium could result in a $1 billion hike in materials costs for both Ford and its main U.S. rival, General Motors Co. (GM) - Get Report .
In the case of Ford, Goldman calculated, a 25% rise in steel prices would reduce the group's operating income by around 12%, while GM would take a 7% hit.
TheStreet's technical expert, Bruce Kamich, has also cautioned that Ford has been "flirting with new lows recently and without strong signals that buyers are being aggressive", and suggests a defensive approach to the stock.
"Prices have been in roughly a $10.25 to $11.00 trading range the past four or five weeks and while we can see the daily On-Balance-Volume (OBV) line creep up slightly in February that is not enough evidence for me to suggest that buyers are happy with being aggressive buyers here," Kamich wrote. "The 12-day momentum study in the bottom panel is not showing a strong bullish divergence so we don't have that leading indicator to count on here."
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker will provide an overview of the product and technologies that will be coming from Ford over the next 24 months at its "Ford Uncovered" briefing Thursday. TheStreet will be there to cover the event.
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