Ford Motor Co. surprised Wall Street on Thursday with a $100 million profit in the first quarter as strong results from Europe and South America helped offset the impact of a slumping U.S. economy that cut car and truck sales in its main market. - AP

Ford posts unexpected profit

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday posted a $100-million profit for the first quarter of 2008. The surprising result might indicate that the long-troubled company is, as its executives have promised, back on the road to viability.

The gain contrasts with a $282-million net loss in the year-earlier period and bucked Wall Street expectations of more red ink. News of the 5-cent-per-share profit put a fire under Ford's stock price, which by midday was up 11 percent in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

With Ford's heavy debt burdens and declining sales — including falling behind Toyota Motor Corp. in U.S. sales for the first time last year — the prognosis for the Dearborn, Mich.-based company until recently was grim.

"The results of this quarter are encouraging," said Ford President and Chief Executive Alan Mulally, acknowledging that the chilling U.S. economy would continue to present difficulties for automakers in the months ahead.

Nonetheless, he said, "going forward, we remain committed to our key business objectives, including our goal of reaching North America and overall automotive profitability in 2009."

Overall, revenue was $43.5 billion, up from $43 billion in the same period last year. Ford showed profits of $739 million in Europe and $257 million in South America in the first quarter, but its earnings were dragged down by a $45-million loss in North America, by far the Detroit giant's largest market.

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