Ford Proves Its Mettle, Fueling Early Gains in Stocks

The American auto industry continues to demonstrate that it's back in the growth business and ready to compete on a global scale.

This morning, the nation's largest automakers reported improved sales figures across the board for the month of June. According to The Wall Street Journal, domestic auto sales rose at the strongest rate in more than five years last month, propelled in large part by a surge in demand for pickup trucks. The news sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) higher for most of the day -- though, the blue-chip index just recently tipped into negative territory with roughly an hour left in the trading session.

Car Company

Sales Growth

Ford (NYSE: F  )

13.0%

Nissan

13.0%

Toyota

10.0%

Honda

10.0%

Chrysler

8.0%

General Motors (NYSE: GM  )

6.5%

Hyundai

2.0%

Source: Wall Street Journal

As you can see, Ford led the way with a 13% increase in June sales compared to the same month last year. Most notably, sales of small cars such as the Fiesta and Focus were up a collective 39%, marking the "best June small car performance in 13 years." And Ford's always popular lineup of F-series pickups gained by 24%, making it the best June since 2005.

According to Ford vice president Ken Czubay: "We're particularly encouraged by strong retail share gains, especially in coastal markets, where the combination of great design and fuel economy is resonating with customers – including many buying a Ford for the first time."

To read more about Ford's performance, check out my colleague Daniel Miller's comprehensive take on it here.

Meanwhile, General Motors, the nation's largest auto manufacturer, notched a 6.5% increase in sales last month. While its Chevrolet and Cadillac brands had strong shows, up by 7.4% and 14.9%, respectively, it was nevertheless weighed down by its Buick and GMC divisions. Sales of Buicks were down by 4.1% on a year-over-year basis, while GMC sales were up by only 4.5%.

Despite this, GM's Kurt McNeil expressed optimism, saying that the company has "good momentum heading into the second half of 2013: the economic outlook is solid and our launch vehicles are performing well in the marketplace."

Also out today was CoreLogic's estimate of home prices in the month of May. The data analytics firm said that existing-home prices increased by 2.6% during the month compared to April and by 12.2% over the May of 2012.

"As we approach the half-way point of 2013, home prices continue to respond positively to the reductions in home inventory thus far," observed CoreLogic's chief economist Mark Fleming.

The news added to a growing chorus of evidence that the housing recovery is gaining momentum and is helping to fuel the shares of companies that look to the housing market for business. As I write, home improvement retailers Lowe's (NYSE: LOW  ) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) are both trading higher. The former is up 2.6% while the latter is gaining 0.22%.

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