Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, Japan's No.2 automaker, forecast a 10 percent rise in annual operating profit as demand in its biggest and most profitable U.S. market recovers from a multi-decade low.

Honda, also the world's top motorcycle maker, is well positioned to gain from a steady rise in U.S. sales with its fleet of fuel-efficient models, which will see the addition of the CR-Z sporty hybrid in North America in a few months.

For the year to end-March 2011, the maker of the Civic and Accord models forecast an operating profit of 400 billion yen ($4.30 billion), up from the 363.8 billion yen it made last year. It expects net profit to grow 27 percent to 340 billion yen.

Operating profit for the January-March quarter just ended was 96.1 billion yen, compared with a loss of 272.1 billion yen a year earlier, when it cut back production to reduce inventory.

The result was slightly higher than the 94 billion yen average estimate in a poll of 19 brokers according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Fourth-quarter net profit came to 72.2 billion yen versus a loss of 180 billion yen a year ago.

Shares in Honda have gained 6.4 percent in the year to date, outperforming a 1.2 percent rise in Tokyo's transport sector subindex <.ITEQP.T>. ($1=93.09 Yen) (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)