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Ford raises profit forecast on strong 2nd quarter results

Ford raises profit forecast on strong 2nd quarter results
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Ford Motor Co. reported better-than-expected earnings for the second quarter and raised its profit and sales forecasts for the year as strong U.S. pickup truck demand and growing sales in China offset persistent - but narrowing - losses in Europe.

Its shares rose 3.7 percent to $17.57 in morning trading Wednesday. That's the highest intraday price since Jan. 28, 2011.

Ford earned $1.23 billion in the April-June period, up 18.5 percent from a year ago.

The company's results were propelled by a $2.3 billion profit in North America, a second-quarter record for that region. Pickup truck sales are booming in the U.S., where construction companies and other businesses are rapidly replacing the fleets they held onto during the recession. Sales of Ford's F-Series pickup - which has long been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. - jumped 26 percent in the second quarter, or more than three times the average industry increase.

Ford's total U.S. sales rose 15 percent during the quarter, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Ford also reported a best-ever profit of $177 million in Asia. Ford's sales jumped 47 percent in China the first six months of this year, compared with total industry sales growth of 17 percent, as the company introduced new vehicles like the EcoSport and Kuga SUVs.

Asia had previously been a drag on Ford's earnings. The company has poured money into new factories and product development there as it tries to catch up to others such as General Motors and Volkswagen that appreciated the region's potential sooner. Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said Asia will be a bigger contributor to earnings over the next few years.

"You're starting to see what's possible," Shanks told media at the company's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters Wednesday morning.

Ford now expects full-year pretax profit to be equal to or better than the $8 billion it reported a year ago. Previously the company had expected to match that profit.

Ford also expects sales in the U.S., Europe and China to be at the upper end of its previous forecasts.

In Europe, Ford narrowed its expected full-year loss to $1.8 billion from $2 billion. The company lost $348 million in Europe in the second quarter, a $56 million improvement over last year's second quarter. Shanks noted that Ford gained market share despite the troubled economy with new vehicles like the Fiesta subcompact and Ranger small pickup.

Ford's earnings amounted to 30 cents per share in the latest quarter, the same as a year ago. Without one-time items, including separation payments in Europe, where Ford is closing several plants, the company earned 45 cents per share. That surpassed analysts' forecast of 37 cents, according to FactSet.

Revenue was up 14 percent to $38.1 billion, beating analysts' forecasts of $34.9 billion.
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