Can an argument be made for Ford's shares today? Indeed one can be made, but the stock is not for rookie investors, or for the squeamish.
Ford (F) is still in the midst of recovering from the most challenge auto market setback in the auto industry since the 1930s: the Great Recession, 2007-2009, which pressured margins, and eliminated literally millions of potential U.S. customers, as a result of the large lay-offs that pushed U.S. unemployment above 9 percent.
Add intense competition, excess capacity, declining demand for its pickup trucks, and hardly ideal credit market conditions for potential new vehicle purchases, and you have a headache on your hands, to be sure.
But Ford under CEO Alan Mulally successfully restructured, discontinued unpopular models, and successfully brought new models to market. It's willingness to let go of the Mercury brand should beef-up the Lincoln brand's sales -- one reason why Ford's 2011 revenue should increase 4-7 percent in 2011.
Another positive data point: Ford and the UAW Tuesday agreed on a new, tentative four-year contract that will allow the company to invest almost $5 billion in U.S. plants and create at least 5,750 jobs.
Margins should also increase in 2011, and cost-reduction efforts should offset higher raw material costs.
Further, Ford will likely benefit from Toyota's recent problems (quality, distribution) -- giving F a good chance to increase market share.
Technically, Ford's stock has been in a classic bear hug throughout 2011-- a staircase down from $19 in January to about $9.30 in early September. Even so, and despite the fact that the stock is below major psychological support at $10, the shares are favored here: $9 is probably the bottom. Ford's shares should trade above $12 by late winter, as it becomes more-clear that the U.S. economic expansion is strengthening; and above $14 by the end of 2012.
The Thomson Reuters First Call FY2011/FY2012 EPS estimates for F are $1.92 to $1.78, and that 2012 EPS estimate looks about 10 percent low, according to my analysis.
Stock Category: Once a blue-chip stock, Ford is now a growth play. Ford is for investors who have the patience to await the inevitable return of the auto sector -- i.e. even stronger U.S.-based sales, as the U.S. economy starts creating 150,000 jobs per month. There's a 30 percent chance you'll lose your entire investment with F over a 10-year period.
2011 Outlook: I view Ford as a long-term play, but if investors are looking to sell Fwithin the year, it's probably best to take your profits after it rises to $11-11.75, if it fails to clear $12.
Stock Analysis: I consider Ford to be a moderate-risk stock. If an investor has already purchased the company's shares, I'd hold them. If not, I'd consider buying a 50 percent position in F now, and another 25 percent in one month; under any circumstances, I wouldn't buy more than 75% of my F position before January 2012 and I'd put a sell/stop loss at: $4.25.
Disclosure: L.C. Jacobs of New York, N.Y. reviews stocks on a quarterly, semi-annual, and annual basis.
L.C. Jacobs has no positions in stocks reviewed, but does own federal, municipal, and corporate bonds.