Operations

Automaker Stocks Down More than Wall Street

Posted on October 7, 2008 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

DETROIT - Wall Street got it bad Monday - but auto stocks got it worse - as investors around the world realized that the global financial crisis they feared has arrived and will stay for a while.

Auto industry stocks sank to new lows Monday, outpacing Wall Street's heavy losses on concerns about the world credit markets. While the Dow Industrials index sank 3.6% and the broader S&P 500 slipped 3.8%, General Motors Corp. shares fell 5.8% and Ford Motor Co. stock dropped by 8.9%.

GM stock declined 52 cents to $8.48 - its lowest close since June 1954. Shares of Ford closed at $3.69, down $0.36 a share.

Amid a global sell-off that began overseas, the Dow dropped more than 800 points during Monday's trading, but bounced back to end the day to finish down about 370 points at 9,955.50. The benchmark average dipped below 10,000 for the first time since Oct. 29, 2004, and closed there despite the afternoon rally.

The Standard & Poor's 500 shed 42.34, to 1,056.89; and the Nasdaq composite fell 84.43, or 4.34%, to close at 1,862.96.

Traders around the world grew impatient, skeptical or both that the financial rescue package approved Friday by Congress would prompt a similar move among European central bankers and immediately clear out the suspicion, mistrust and outright paranoia that clogs global credit markets and threatens to stymie business activity from Detroit to Dubai.

But while the major indices managed to claw their way back a bit on Monday, the automakers and their suppliers face even more doubts. Auto sales are down 12.8% this year and fell sharply in September, down nearly 27% to less than 1 million vehicles - the worst month since February 1993.

Poor sales have been blamed on the inability of many consumers with poor or average credit to get loans to buy new cars, but that is just the latest challenge to the industry. And auto dealers themselves are paying more or having trouble finding financing for their vehicle inventory.

Meanwhile, leasing has been curtailed or eliminated at many dealerships as automakers' finance arms found themselves stuck with vehicles worth much less than expected when leases ended. Higher gas prices drove down sales of high-profit SUVs and pickups, and while that's lessened with the drop of gas below $4 per gallon, automakers still have plenty of low-mileage inventory to clear out.

Even before the financial collapse, Detroit's Big Three mortgaged their businesses to restructure, pinning much of their hopes on buyouts and labor concessions that won't kick in to lower their costs until after next year.

Ford is off 60% from its 52-week-high and its market capitalization is $8.34 billion, down about $12 billion from its 52-week high in October 2007. Ford's stock value has also been hurt by its decision to raise another $500 million through an additional offering to pay down debt.

Ford also was hit by news that Fitch Ratings downgraded the Dearborn automaker's debt further into junk status, cutting it to "CCC" from "B-."

Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian paid about $1 billion for 140.8 million shares - or 6.49% of the Ford's stock - between April and June. He's lost about $480 million to date on Ford.

Ford's hourly and salaried employees and retirees held about 291 million shares of Ford stock as of Dec. 31, which was worth about $1.9 billion at the time, according to a June 30 Ford filing. If employees and retirees still held all of those shares they would have lost around $900 million.

Meanwhile, GM's shares are off 80% from their 52-week-high and the automaker's market capitalization - the value of all outstanding shares - has fallen to just $4.8 billion.

The declining share price of GM caused the stock to be removed from the S&P 100 in July, even though GM remains in the S&P 500 and is a Dow Industrials component.

Other automakers have fallen, as well. Daimler AG's U.S. shares fell $4.82, or 11.4%, to $37.65; Toyota Motor Corp. declined $4.72 a share to $73.38, down 6%; and Honda Motor Co. shares fell 4.8%, or $1.29, to $25.34.

Publicly traded shares of auto suppliers also have fallen sharply in the last month. Visteon Corp. closed at $1.63 a share. The Van Buren Township supplier has fallen 56% since Sept. 19.

Southfield-based Lear Corp. is down 40% since Sept. 19, closing at $8.58, the lowest closing price for the auto interior manufacturer since at least 1994. Federal-Mogul fell 10.2% to $9.04 a share, down $1.03 a share, hitting a new 52-week-low.

Source: Detroit News & Associated Press

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