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Bear Stearns Bullish on GM

The broker raises its price target and earnings estimates for the automaker.
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General Motors

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shares are up sharply in December, and so is Wall Street's confidence in the company.

Bear Stearns Tuesday became the latest broker to raise its expectations, upping both its share price target and earnings estimates for the No. 1 automaker, saying it thinks the "company is getting better pricing behind strong volume."

Analysts Dominic P. Martilotti and Michael L. Geoghegan set a target of $61 dollar a share by the end of 2004, up from $51 a share.

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Bear Stearns also upped its fourth-quarter earnings forecast from $1.13 to $1.23 a share. The consensus forecast is $1.20 a share, according to Thomson First Call. The brokerage also increased its full-year 2004 profit forecast from $5.50 a share to $6 a share. The consensus view is $5.72 a share.

In a note to clients, the analysts said: "Now that the focus has been taken off of GM's former underfunded pension, we believe the market has begun to take notice of its improving underlying business despite a difficult pricing environment." (Bear Stearns has a banking relationship with GM.)

In recent years, GM's huge pension gap has been a drag on results. The car manufacturer recently announced that its pension plan was fully funded, thanks to strong investment returns and a major bond offering this year.

UBS Warburg last week raised its target on the stock to $66 from $52 and recommended investors buy the company's shares based on expectations for better earnings as it stabilizes market share and reduces costs. (UBS Warburg has a banking relationship with the company.)

GM shares have risen 25% this month. In premarket trading Tuesday, they're up 48 cents, or 0.9%, to $54.18.