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 set a 52-week high after the news Wednesday.
Ford earned $1.23 billion in the April-June period, up 18.5 percent from a year ago.
Ford'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 truck — 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, as the company tried to catch up in the region and poured money into new factories and product development. 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 raised its forecast based on the April-June results. It now expects its 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, which was $56 million better than a year ago. Shanks noted that Ford gained market share despite the troubled economy with new vehicles like the 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.
Ford shares were up 2.4 percent at $17.35 in the last hour of regular trading Wednesday in New York, after trading as high as $17.68. They have traded in a 52-week range of $8.82 to $17.29.
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