Auto Sales: Tomorrow's Headliners

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The health of the auto industry will be in the spotlight Tuesday, with major automakers set to post February's sales data throughout the trading session.

February's auto sales tally is expected to show a marked improvement from January's showing, with auto researcher Edmunds.com predicting that new vehicle sales rose 12.9% last month. The increase comes thanks to "robust" sales over Presidents' Day weekend.

"Sales over the Presidents' Day weekend were robust-indicating that deal-seekers are still buying, but one strong weekend further illustrates how lackluster sales were the remainder of the month," said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. "We will have to wait until March to see if February is an aberration or a fundamental sign that the recovery in sales will be more subdued than hoped."

Perhaps more notable is Edmunds.com's prediction that Toyota ( TM) will see its market share plummet to 12.6%, the lowest level since July 2005, due to the automaker's continued struggle with recalled vehicles. A Senate committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on Toyota's recalls.

Among other automakers, Ford ( F) likely sold 136,000 units in February, up 35.3% from a year ago and 18.9% above the previous month's tally. General Motors likely sold 147,000 units last month, up 16.2% from last year but up only 0.2% from January, according to Edmunds.com.

On the earnings front, Staples ( SPLS), AutoZone ( AZO) and Tech Data ( TECD) are among a handful of companies set to report quarterly results before the start of trading Tuesday. Hovnanian ( HOV) will open its books on the last quarter after the closing bell.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.

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