Ford stock, of course, has reflected the improvement, soaring 1,200% in 19 months, from a low point of $1.01 in November 2008. Shares rose 335% in 2009. They began 2010 at $10.17 and climbed to $14.57 on April 26. Then, a selloff following the April 27 earnings report took the pricd down to $10.59 on May 6. In early afternoon trading Thursday, shares were down 7 cents to $12.61.

Several analysts now have a hold on the shares.

In a report issued Tuesday, KeyBanc analyst Brett Hoselton raised his full-year estimate for the automaker to $1.27 from 97 cents. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are estimating $1.28. "Driven in part by increasing market share, higher transaction prices and a lower cost structure, Ford is well-positioned to benefit from a potential multi-year recovery in Ford is well-positioned to benefit from a potential multi-year recovery in U.S. light vehicle sales," Hoselton wrote.

However, he retaind a hold rating on the stock because "much of the expected improvement going forward may already be reflected in the stock price."

In a May 3 report, Levy reiterated a hold, saying the 25% increase in vehicle shipments in April was positive, but not as positive as the 43% gain in March. Mix improvement, an increase in residual values and a recovery economy are all positives, Levy said, but "we think some monthly comparisons will become more difficult. "

Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache also has a hold on Ford. He wrote on April 27 that Ford's strong first-quarter results justify a price target of $13.60. "An upside case for Ford's shares would require significantly higher margins" than is typical for a mass market automaker, Lache said, but those margins may be attainable.

Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy has a buy on the shares, based on his full-year earnings estimate of $1.45 a share and a price target of $17.50. "We are encouraged by Ford's restructuring progress (and) continued execution, and believe the company is at a positive inflection point," he wrote.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C. .

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