As Stock Market Zig Zags, June Auto Sales Grow, Especially at Ford

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DETROIT (TheStreet) -- It's not quite clear what the stock market is trying to tell us about the economy, but auto sales numbers continue to show gains --- particularly for Ford .

"The stock market told us we needed a little bit of a correction, but I don't think that has a lasting impact on the momentum the market has overall, or on the auto sector," said analyst Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive. "Now the market is bouncing back a bit, which I think is a positive signal that it won't be something that drags down auto sales."

Kelley Blue Book estimated June light-vehicle sales will gain 6% and the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate will reach 15.5 million, the highest pace since the November SAAR also hit 15.5 million. Edmunds.com projected a 5.3% increase and a SAAR of 15.5 million. LMC Automotive said it expects a gain of 7.6% and a SAAR of 15.7 million. Jeffries said the gain should be about 9%, based on the midpoint of the SAAR Estimates.

Meanwhile, Ford said Thursday that its market share is growing at its competitors' expense. Through May, Ford's market share year to date has gained nearly a full percentage point to 16.2%. Ford said the gains are due largely to its success in the small utility vehicle segment, where the Ford Escape reigns, and midsize sedan segments, where the Fusion is a strong competitor.

Additionally, sales of the F-150 pickup truck, the top-selling U.S. vehicle, were up 22% for the first five months. In May, F-150 sales topped 70,000 units for the first time since March 2007. In June, Jeffries analyst Peter Nesvold said, "Consumer confidence surged past May's five-year high as home prices and sales continued to rise, with pickup trucks flying off the lots."

"The small utility segment will capture a record 13% of the market in June, " fueled by recent redesigns of the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4," said Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez, in a prepared statement.

"We've had a strong first half of the year with new-car sales up nearly 7% compared to the first half of last year," Gutierrez said. "The industry continues to benefit from modest improvements in housing, unemployment and consumer confidence."