NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Asbury Automotive Group Inc. has cut costs and shown itself to be profitable despite the weak automobile market, a Deutsche Bank analyst said in upgrading shares of the auto retailer.

Rod Lache raised Asbury to "Buy" from "Hold" in a note to investors Wednesday evening. He said the company has performed well during the seasonally weak winter sales months, easing reservations about the company's ability to withstand the downturn.

Lache said he expects the company to return to profitability this year after posting a net loss for 2008.

The downturn in new vehicle sales have battered auto retailers. Many have closed their doors as the economic recession and deadlocked credit markets scared off customers. Industrywide auto sales fell 39 percent in February.

Lache raised his price on Asbury to $7 from $5.50, implying an expected upside of more than 90 percent from its Wednesday close of $3.65.

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