Archive for April, 2011

US Airways lost $114M in 1Q on bigger fuel bill

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 | Finance News

US Airways Group Inc. says its first-quarter loss more than doubled to $114 million as fuel prices rose sharply.

US Airways and other airlines have been raising fares to try to keep up with fuel prices. US Airways' traffic rose 4 percent in the quarter. Higher fares and demand helped push revenue up 11.7 percent to $2.96 billion.

Fuel costs jumped by $200 million, a 37 percent increase from a year earlier.

The loss amounted to 71 cents per share. A year ago, the airline lost $45 million, or 28 cents per share.

Not counting fuel, its costs for each seat flown one mile fell by 1.3 percent.

US Airways, based in Tempe, Ariz., is the nation's fifth-largest airline.

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Home prices fall for 8th month in February: S&P/Case

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. single-family home prices fell for an eighth straight month in February, inching closer to an April 2009 trough, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas declined 0.2 percent in February from January on a seasonally adjusted basis, slightly better than economists' median forecast for a drop of 0.3 percent.

The 20-city composite index was at 139.27, holding just a hair above its 2009 low of 139.26. Average home prices across the United States are back to levels where they were in the summer of 2003.

Prices in the 20 cities have fallen 3.3 percent year over year, in line with expectations.

"There is very little, if any, good news about housing. Prices continue to weaken, trends in sales and construction are disappointing," David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, said in a statement.

"Recent data on existing-home sales, housing starts, foreclosure activity and employment confirm that we are still in a slow recovery."

The glut of houses up for sale has kept prices low and the market has struggled to regain traction since a home buyer tax credit expired last spring.

Other data in the last week has suggested some stabilization in the market with sales of new and existing homes rising in March.

Financial markets were unchanged by the Case-Shiller data on Tuesday, with U.S. stock index futures pointing to a higher open with investors focused on earnings from major companies.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Ford posts best first-quarter profit in 13 years

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 | Finance News

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co reported its best first-quarter profit in 13 years, driven by strong sales in its home market and demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ford also said on Tuesday that last month's earthquake which has hurt the supply chain in Japan has had "minimal" impact on its business, and analysts said Ford may even stand to gain.

"Ford continues to get market share. We expect this trend will continue," said Channing Smith, co-manager of Capital Advisors Growth Fund, which owns Ford shares. "I think Ford and a lot of the other American automakers will take market share from the Japanese."

Ford is the first U.S. automaker to report earnings since the March earthquake in Japan jolted the global supply chain especially for Japanese makers.

While Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co have said they expect deep cuts in production this year, Ford said its business will not be greatly affected.

Lewis Booth, Ford's chief financial officer, said that so far, since the earthquake in Japan, the automaker has lost the production of 12,000 to 14,000 vehicles in Asia, where it has shut several plants temporarily.

Ford beat quarterly earnings expectations by 12 cents a share, which helped send the company's shares up 3.5 percent to $16.09 in trading before the market opened. Its fourth-quarter 2010 results missed analyst expectations by a wide mark, ending a string of quarters in which Ford easily exceeded expectations.

Any near-term production losses are likely to recover in late 2011 and into 2012, Ford said. Production in Ford's business regions outside of Asia have not yet seen much change.

Ford maintained its projections for North American production in the second quarter at 710,000 vehicles. For the first time, Ford disclosed its projected second-quarter global production figure of 1.46 million.

Net income rose to $2.55 billion, or 61 cents a share, compared with $2.09 billion, or 50 cents a share, in the year earlier period. It was the highest first-quarter net income since 1998.

Excluding one-time items, it earned 62 cents a share, easily topping the 50 cents analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected. It was the seventh straight quarter of operating profit.

Revenue rose to $33.1 billion from $28.1 billion last year. Analysts had expected $29.7 billion.

PRICING DISCIPLINE

Alan Mulally, who took over as chief executive in 2006, has turned the company around since it lost $30 billion from 2006 to 2008 by streamlining business operations including design, production and management of its balance sheet.

Booth pointed to Ford's pricing discipline in turning in what he called "fantastic" quarter.

"As we build what we can sell, we're not chasing marginal, unprofitable share. We're staying very disciplined on incentives," he told reporters on Tuesday morning.

Ford stands to gain U.S. market share as it can take advantage of the recent redesign of its Fiesta and Focus models just as gasoline prices spike and Japan's automakers, which have dominated the U.S. small-car market for decades, expect thin inventories in May and June, analysts said.

Ford said that higher commodity costs including oil and gasoline prices may provide a headwind to growth for the rest of the year.

J.P. Morgan analyst Himanshu Patel in a research note cited a profit rebound in North America driven by stronger pricing and lower costs. He also pointed to stronger-than-expected results at Ford Credit that he called "unsustainable."

Ford Motor Credit Co earned $713 million in the first quarter on a pretax basis. Patel had expected $428 million and credited the higher number to a stronger-than-expected performance on lease residuals.

Ford regained its footing in Europe in the first quarter, showing a pretax operating profit of $293 million, up from a profit of $107 million a year ago. Sales were up $1 billion to $8.7 billion in Europe.

In the fourth quarter, Ford reported an operating loss of $51 million in Europe that was blamed for Ford's failure to meet analyst expectations.

(Garbled figures on Asia production was corrected in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Ben Klayman; Editing by Derek Caney and Matthew Lewis)

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