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Why Ford Motor Stock Accelerated in January

By Lou Whiteman - Feb 3, 2021 at 9:54AM

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Ford is getting a fresh look heading into 2021.

What happened

Shares of Ford Motor (F 3.89%) were in the fast lane in January, climbing 19.8% for the month, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The stock was actually up as much as 30% in mid-January before giving back some of those gains in the month's final days.

So what

Ford shares have been stuck in neutral, with the stock going nowhere over the past five years even as archrival General Motors climbed more than 80% during that period. Auto stocks have been top of mind through much of that period, but the attention has mostly been focused on Tesla and other companies seen as ushering in the electrification of the automotive industry.

The Mustang Mach-E at an auto show.

Ford's Mustang Mach-E EV. Image source: Ford.

The conventional wisdom has been that as the newcomers gain a foothold dinosaurs like Ford are in trouble, but the automaker is starting to get a second look. Ford hasn't been sitting still as EV makers encroach on its territory, with a much-anticipated electric Mustang and an electric version of its mainstay F-150 pickup in the works, as well as a range of electric commercial vans.

Ford is also entering a period of product refreshes and new introductions, which usually leads to an uptick in sales. It's promising enough that in January Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner added Ford to the bank's short-term Catalyst Call Buy List, a group of stocks that could move higher following a "catalyst" event.

Rosner thinks Ford's 2021 guidance could surprise to the upside and give investors more confidence that the company's transformation and cost-cutting plan is taking hold.

Now what

Ford kicked off February by announcing a strategic partnership with Alphabet to use the Android operating system and Google's maps and other services in its vehicles. The two companies will also work together to develop new products and services.

The partnership should help Ford provide reliable consumer-facing tech and reduce its costs compared to developing the software in house. Ford shares are up another 5% in the first few days of the month.

Ford in recent years has been an afterthought to many investors enamored by the range of start-ups looking to transform the auto industry. Recent events would suggest that perhaps we shouldn't count out the dinosaurs of the industry just yet, and that's causing Wall Street to take a fresh look at Ford shares.

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