Ford Motor Co expects its U.S. sales for June to be down 10 percent to 20 percent from a year earlier, giving it a higher share of the largest auto market amid early signs demand has begun to stabilize, an executive said on Monday.

The underlying economic indicators, meaning fewer jobless claims, another month of somewhat higher levels of consumer confidence, suggest to us that the worst is behind us in terms of not only the economy ... but also that we may have seen the low point of auto sales, George Pipas, Ford's U.S. sales analyst, told reporters in a discussion at Ford headquarters.

Pipas said the U.S. could see economic growth in the second half of 2009 and higher levels of auto sales than the light vehicle sales rates we have been seeing.

We think it is a good bet now that is going to happen, Pipas said.

Ford, the only U.S. automaker to have avoided bankruptcy, has forecast a second-half U.S. recovery in demand. Ford posted a company record $14.7 billion net loss in 2008 and expects to return to profitability in 2011.

The U.S. auto industry could post sales declines of 25 percent to 30 percent in June from a year earlier, the smallest percentage decline since September 2008 when the U.S. sustained a financial market meltdown, Pipas said.

With a sales decline much lower than that, Ford expects its share of the U.S. market in June to be comparable to May, when it posted its best overall share in three years.

From a market share standpoint, it looks like another solid month, he said. I think it's a sure bet that our market share, both total market share and retail market share, will be stronger than it was in June of last year.

U.S. auto sales plunged to their lowest monthly levels since the early 1980s from late 2008 through the first few months of this year. The industry posted U.S. sales of 13.2 million vehicles last year.

Through the first half of this year, sales have been running at about 9.5 million to 9.6 million rate, Pipas said.

U.S. auto sales could reach 10 million units on an annualized basis in June, Pipas said. A key variable would be the amount of fleet sales for the month.

It's hard to believe that 10 million (units) would be a psychological hurdle after what we experienced earlier this decade and I think that is possible, Pipas said.

He later said the 10 million unit rate was not a sure thing for June. The industry could have some sales months at the 10 million unit annualized rate, or even the 11 million unit range in the second half of the year, he added.