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Citi analyst boosts price target for Ford

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Citi analyst on Wednesday boosted his target price for Ford Motor Co., saying that the automaker should continue to get a boost from increasing vehicle demand.

THE OPINION: Itay Michaeli, who rated the stock at "Buy," increased his price target by $2.75 to $18 following meetings with members of Ford's management.

Michaeli said that overall the executives sounded "fairly upbeat." He said they described North American sales as very strong, while the South American market has been a little bit tough.

Meanwhile, and possibly most importantly, the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker is a bit more optimistic about Europe and hopeful that demand will start to pick up there next year, he said.

Michaeli said Ford's profits should get a boost around the middle of this decade, as the still aging fleet of vehicles on U.S. roads prompts consumers to buy new ones. At the same time, an increase in Asia Pacific capacity should boost the company's profits there.

THE SHARES: Up 36 cents to $15.64 in afternoon trading. Earlier in the session, the shares peaked at $15.65, their highest price in more than two years.

Over the past year, the shares have gained about 43 percent.