Ford's (F) stock is turning another right corner this morning, following a 13 percent jump in June sales as pickup truck sales jumped 24 percent. Strong June sales- the best since 2006-follow better than expected Q1 results reported in April. The company earned a pretax profit of 41 cents, beating the 37 cents analyst estimate-a rapid turnaround from an 88 percent decline in the previous quarter. Revenue rose to $35.8 billion from $32.4 billion (revenue growth accelerated from 5.5 percent to 10.40 percent), fueled by growth in sales in U.S. and China; Europe was a drag. But this may change, as Europe shows signs of stabilization.
Ford's sales growth in a sluggish world market environment reflects a shrewd business strategy that focuses on both cost cuts and quality improvements. Most notably, Ford continues to develop new models that have captured consumer interest. One of its models, the Ford Focus, reclaimed the title as the world's top-selling car, while another of its models - the New Fusion - is closing in on Toyota's (TM) Camry. Nevertheless, its stock has been range bound. What should investors do?
It depends on the investment horizon of each individual investor. Short-term oriented investors may want to take profits as the stock rallies. Long-term investors should stay with the stock for five reasons: First, the doubling of its quarterly dividend, from 5 to 10 cents per share, an appealing proposition for today's low interest rate environment.
Second, Ford is seeing an improvement in economic fundamentals. With improving quality and the introduction of new models, Ford has been benefiting from a broader recognition of its brand - Ford's 2013 Fusion was named Car of the Year by AOL Autos. The company has further expanded its overseas presence, especially in China, where it is the largest foreign company. It is also expected to benefit from the backlash of the territorial disputes between Japan and China.
Third, the company is seeing improving financial fundamentals, especially in its profit margins. Ford was the only American automobile company that didn't receive government money during the 2008 crisis. Last year, both S&P and Fitch raised Ford's credit rating.
Ford Motor Company
Quarterly Revenue Growth
Quarterly earnings growth
Operating cash flow
*Fye Dec 30, 2013; Source: Yahoo.Finance.com
Fourth, Ford has been very aggressive in addressing its European market woes by idling factories, cutting thousands of jobs, and taking a $3 billion charge over the next two years.
Fifth, the introduction of new more-fuel efficient products that cater to different segments of the global economy, including the all-new Ford Fusion and Mondeo, Escape and Kuga, EcoSport in South Africa, and B-Max in Europe.
A few words of caution: Automobile stocks are economic sensitive. This means they are at the whims of business cycles. That's why I would constantly keep an eye to the fragile global recovery, especially in Europe where even Ford maintains a large presence.