Ford

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posted its fourth quarterly loss in a row Wednesday as a fierce battle for market share ate into the top and bottom line.

The automaker said its loss before one-time items and accounting changes totaled $108 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with a profit of $1.13 billion, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier. The latest quarter's results easily beat analysts' 15-cent loss estimate. Including a big writedown of goodwill and other items, Ford lost $800 million in the first period.

Ford's U.S. market share fell in the first quarter to 20.7% from 22.6% in the first quarter of 2001. Ford announced a restructuring plan in January that calls for closing at least five plants and reducing its work force by 35,000 employees.

Looking ahead, Ford said: "The U.S. economy is beginning to show signs of a recovery. As consumer confidence increases, we are well positioned with the many new products we are in the process of bringing to market."

Ford's first-quarter revenue was $39.86 billion, a 6% decline from last year, as worldwide vehicle unit sales fell 7% to 1,678,000. Worldwide automotive operations lost $310 million in the first quarter, compared to a profit of $748 million year ago. The North America loss was $430 million. Worldwide automotive revenue was $32.32 billion, compared with $34.65 billion a year ago.

Ford Credit earned $242 million in the first quarter, down from $406 million a year ago. Results were hurt by securitizations and higher actual credit losses, offset partially by improved financing margins and higher levels of managed receivables.