Shares of Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) were trading higher on Wednesday afternoon on signs of an accelerating recovery after U.S. auto sales totals for May turned out to be better than analysts had expected.
As of 3:15 p.m. EDT, Ford's shares were up about 5.2% from Tuesday's closing price.
While Ford no longer reports monthly sales results for the U.S., overall sales of "light vehicles" (cars, pickups, and SUVs) appear to have fallen about 30% in May from a year ago. That was less of a drop than analysts had predicted -- and an improvement over April, when U.S. auto sales were down by half.
The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of light-vehicle sales in the U.S., a widely watched figure, was 12.17 million in May, according to Automotive News. Analysts had predicted a result in the mid to high 11 million range. The SAAR fell to 11.33 million in March, when most auto dealers closed mid-month amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to just 8.6 million in April.
Edmunds estimated that Ford's U.S. sales probably fell about 32% in May from May of 2019, but they were likely up by a similar percentage from April.
After reopening most of its factories in the U.S. and Canada in mid-May, Ford is continuing to ramp up production to restock its dealers as consumers return to showrooms. Ford is believed to be prioritizing pickup-truck production, as sales have proven surprisingly resilient since the onset of the pandemic, and supplies are thought to be tight.
As auto investors know, pickups are a key driver of profit for Ford; if production remains on track and demand remains brisk, Ford's second-quarter results might not be quite as bad as the company predicted back in April.