STOCKHOLM - World number two truckmaker Volvo said vehicle shipments tumbled in October from last year, but a rise over September deliveries offered hope the sector's headlong plunge in demand may have bottomed.

Shipments fell 41 percent last month compared with a year earlier as the global economic downturn continued to weigh.

But the majority of the truck operations have noted an increase in deliveries in October compared with September, Volvo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Volvo, which sells trucks under the Renault, Nissan Diesel, Mack and Eicher marques as well as its own name, said deliveries were down 51 percent year-on-year in Europe, its biggest market, and 28 percent in North America.

In Asia, shipments of the Swedish group's heavy-duty trucks fell 35 percent.

The trend we saw in September continued in October with further small improvements due to higher production rates and slightly better underlying demand in Europe, Handelsbanken analyst Hampus Engellau said. Overall, these are positive signals.

The global financial crisis hit the auto markets with full force late last year, pulling the plug on years of easy credit for purchases of everything from microcars to trucks and plunging major economies across the world into deep recessions.

Earlier on Wednesday the world's biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp, marked its first year-on-year increase in global sales in 15 months, reporting a rise of 5 percent to about 640,000 units in October.

And signs of stabilisation from what Volvo Chief Executive Leif Johansson has described as the steepest downturn ever experienced by the highly cyclical truck industry have firmed in recent months, though a solid upturn remains elusive.

Volvo has forecast that the European truck market will halve at best this year while the already weak North American market contracts a further 30-40 percent.

At 0842 GMT, Volvo shares were up 0.1 percent at 71.85 Swedish crowns, lagging the DJ Stoxx European autos index which rose 0.9 percent.

(Editing by John Stonestreet and David Cowell)