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Automaker stocks climb, Europe reports sales gain

The Associated Press

Shares of automakers rose Friday, with General Motors Co. stock reaching its highest price in more than two years, as Europe became the latest part of the globe to report rising auto sales.

The European automakers association said Friday that new car registrations in the European Union rose 1.7 percent in April from the year before, the first such increase since November 2011. The United Kingdom, German and Spain were bright spots, said Sterne Agee analyst Michael Ward in a research note.

The region's deepening recession and rising unemployment has hurt the auto industry. Europe's carmakers are looking to see when the bottom will hit.

The most recent data may not signal a steady upward trend. April's increase was due in part to extra work days last month, because Easter fell in March this year. And Ward cautioned that the continent continues to represent a big risk for the auto industry, with more production cuts possible in the second half of the year.

Sales have also been improving in the U.S. and Asia. Last week, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said sales in that country, the world's biggest auto market, rose 13 percent in April, despite concern about a weak economic recovery.

GM has said that April sales of GM-brand autos by the company and its Chinese partners rose 15.3 percent from a year earlier.

Last month, U.S. auto sales grew 8.5 percent to nearly 1.3 million, reaching their highest level for any April since 2007.

Shares of GM topped their initial public offering price of $33 on Friday, peaking at $33.65 in afternoon trading. That's up 3.9 percent from Thursday's close.

The auto company's stock hasn't traded above $33 since March 2011. GM Went public at that price in November 2010.

However, the stock has been on a tear since January and had climbed about 12 percent this year.

Shares of Ford Motor Co. climbed nearly 3 percent, or 43 cents, to $15.07 on Friday while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than 1 percent.

U.S. shares of Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. climbed 1.7 percent, or $2.12, to $127.24, while Honda Motor Co. Ltd. was up 1.7 percent, or 70 cents, to $41.37. In Europe, shares of Volkswagen AG climbed 3.2 percent to 160.45 euros ($207).