Stock Market Today: Ford Stumbles and Colgate-Palmolive Shines

Investors can expect a lower start to the stock market today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has lost 55 points in pre-market trading. Global markets fell overnight, with European shares lower by 1% as of 7:30 a.m EDT. Corporate earnings continue to dominate the headlines, and this morning is no exception: Ford (NYSE: F  ) announced a surprisingly low quarterly profit, while Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL  ) widened its lead over rival Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) .

Market movers

Ford this morning posted quarterly results in which sales improved by roughly 1% to $35.9 billion, which was even with Wall Street's expectations. Worldwide volume grew by 6% as the automaker logged gains in all regions except South America, while hitting a record-high market share in China. However, the $0.24 a share in profit that Ford booked was significantly below last year's haul -- and far from analysts' target of $0.31 a share.

Ford said the shortfall came from a mix of unusual factors that all hit results hard in the quarter, including warranty reserve expenses, which cleaved $500 million from its North American business, safety recalls, and weather-related costs. Those issues where "not representative of the underlying business run rate," the company stated in a press release. Instead, CEO Alan Mulally described the overall results as "solid," and said the automaker looks forward to launching a record 23 new vehicles this year. Ford's stock was down 2% in pre-market trading.

Colgate-Palmolive today announced that its first-quarter profit grew by just 2% on flat sales. Revenue came in at $4.3 billion, even with last year's results, while earnings were $0.68 a share. Beneath those headline numbers, though, it's clear that Colgate solidly outperformed bigger rival Procter & Gamble, which reported earnings earlier in the week. Colgate booked an overall 6.5% boost in organic sales, more than double P&G's 3% figure. The company also improved gross margin to 58.4%, well ahead of P&G's 48.9% result. Emerging markets again made the difference for Colgate this quarter, logging volume gains of 10%, as the company demonstrated why the market has awarded it such a premium valuation. Colgate shares seem well worth the 28 times trailing earnings, even considering P&G's price/earnings multiple is just 22. The stock was unchanged in pre-market trading.

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