Shares of General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) have struggled, basically since the beginning of the year. And the question is whether they have seen their highs for the year. They may have.
GM shares are down 14.6% for the year and more than 16% since peaking in late December. Ford shares are down 11.6% since peaking in mid-January and are down about 3.8% on the year. Worse, the trend lines for both stocks are sloping strongly downward, suggesting investors are worried about results over the next six to nine months.
Fourth-quarter results for both companies were lackluster. GM earned $0.54 a share on revenue of $40.5 billion. Wall Street had expected $0.88 on revenue of $41.08 billion.
Ford earned $0.31 a share, flat compared with a year ago, on revenue of $37.6 billion. That beat the Thomson Reuters estimates of $0.28 and $35.2 billion. Guidance for 2014 — $7 billion to $8 billion in net income — was lower than the $8.5 billion it earned in 2013.
Both companies are currently enjoying strong sales in North America, mostly due to robust sales of the Ford F-series pickups and GM’s Silverado.
European operations for both companies are losing money, however. GM took a $700 million write-down on its decision to pull its Chevrolet line of vehicles off the European market. Instead, it will concentrate on turning around its Opel business in Europe. GM also is shutting down its operations in Australia. Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) will also halt manufacturing down under.
And the health of China’s market — GM’s biggest non-U.S. market — is a concern.
GM has some additional headwinds. After the Silverado, it has just two vehicles among the top 20 best-selling vehicles: the Chevrolet Cruze and Chevrolet Equinox. And it is offering big President’s Day discount to move excess Silverados.
Ford has five top 20 vehicles: the F Series, Ford Fusion, Ford Escape, Ford Explorer and Ford Focus.
Recent suggestions of weakening consumer spending in the United States also is weighing on the shares.
Right now, the Street consensus is for GM to earn $3.98 a share in 2014 on revenue of $161.8 billion, up from $3.18 in 2013 on revenue of $161.8 billion. The consensus target price for the shares is $46.94., up 34.5% from Monday’s close of $34.90. The shares fell $1.21 or 3.4% on the day.
Ford is expected to earn $1.37 a share in 2014, down from $1.62 in 2013. Revenue is seen at $140 billion, flat over 2013. The Ford target is $17.97, up 21.1% from Monday’s close of $14.84. The shares were off $0.13, or 0.9%, from Friday.
Maybe the analysts are right about their targets, but do not expect big upside moves until European operations look stronger, and domestic sales start to show real strength. The industry has sold vehicles at an annualized rate of around 15.5 million units for the past year, according to data from market researchers Autodata Corp.
Until that sales rate ticks up, you can see GM hovering around $33 and Ford sticking at around $15 or $15.50.