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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: IBM, General Motors, Ford Motor, Nissan Motor and Toyota Motor

CHICAGO, Jan. 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include IBM (NYSE:IBM), General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), Nissan Motor Co. (OTC:NSANY) and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM).

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Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

IBM Finally Beats On the Top

IBM (NYSE:IBM) finally broke a multi-quarter slump in the top line with fourth-quarter revenue of $29.3 billion, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $29.18 billion. Non-GAAP earnings per share of $5.39 improved 14% from last year and beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by about 2.7%.

For a while now, IBM's revenue and EPS have been going in different directions, with the former slumping slightly while the latter was able to eke out gains. The top line weakness was attributed to slowing IT spending, which had a big impact on the entire tech sector given IBM's status as a bellwether.

Today's quarterly performance by no means signals a rollicking industry for the fourth quarter, but it does suggest some improvement. It could also be a big benefit to earnings season in general, which didn't inspire much confidence to begin with and hasn't been that encouraging so far.

Revenue was still down 1% year over year, though was flat when adjusting for currency. It was up 1% excluding divested RSS business adjusting for currency. Meanwhile, IBM's earnings surprise may be small, but it gets the company back into the green after only matching in the third quarter. Before then, the company had a very impressive record of consecutive EPS surprises.

For the full year, non-GAAP earnings per share of $15.25 was up 13% and ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate at $15.09. Revenue was down 2% at $104.5 billion.

For 2013, IBM expects non-GAAP earnings per share of at least $16.70, compared to our estimate of $16.58.

At the moment, IBM is stuck at a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Out of 22 total estimates, there have been no upward revisions in the past 60 days, but there have been 5 to the downside. We'll have to wait and see if today's quarterly report will be enough to lift the Zacks Rank.

We have always believed that IBM had a good long-term picture, due to its key growth initiatives, strong product pipeline, expansion in emerging markets and continuous acquisitions. The short-term, though, was a question mark. Perhaps this quarter will get it moving in the right direction again.

IBM is certainly moving in the right direction after hours, with shares up approximately 3% at this writing.

GM to Invest $1.5B in North American Plants

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) revealed that it will pump in $1.5 billion in its North American facilities in 2013 as part of its $8 billion annual investment plan for its global operations for new vehicle development.

GM has invested $10.2 billion in its North American facilities since 2009. In May 2011, the company had also initiated an investment plan of $2 billion, targeting 17 assembly and components plants in 8 states for 18 months in the U.S. The program, intended to create or preserve more than 4,000 hourly and salaried jobs at the plants, has been completed.

Recently, GM also mentioned that it would be able to save thousands of dollars in costs per car in the production of next generation Volt by adopting a more efficient design. The new design will help the company use smaller vehicle components and save weight. However, the company did not reveal the launch date of the plug-in hybrid car.

Recently, at an industry conference in Detroit, GM stated that it expects modest growth in global auto sales in 2013 as improvements in China and the U.S. will be offset by sluggish car sales in Europe. The automaker predicted a 5% rise in industry sales in the U.S. and international market each and European market to shrink 4% in the year.

The company foresees pricing pressures to exist, particularly in China and Europe. However, it expects that moderate market share gain across the world, driven by new vehicle launches will boost its profit margins. GM plans to upgrade 70% of its global lineups by the end of this year.

In North America, GM aims to boost market share and increase vehicle pricing. The company expects to enhance profit margins in the region to 10% in the next three or four years from 8% currently. Meanwhile, the company has targeted break-even results in Europe by 2015. In China, GM intends to improve margins by continuing investing in Cadillac and rolling out its OnStar communications, in-car safety system.

Many automakers started focusing on electric powered vehicles as President Barack Obama's administration set a goal of achieving 1 million battery-powered vehicles on the road by 2015.

In August 2012, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) announced its plan to invest $135 million to develop key components, including advanced battery systems, for its next-generation hybrid-electric vehicles. The automaker is looking forward to doubling its battery-testing capabilities to 160 individual battery-test channels by 2013. It aims to boost development of hybrid-electric vehicles by at least 25%.

Recently, Nissan Motor Co. (OTC:NSANY) announced that it has started the production of all-electric 2013 LEAF at its Smyrna, TN plant. The new LEAF will be produced together with the company's gasoline-powered products in the plant. The automaker also opened its largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in Smyrna, which is adjacent to the LEAF assembly facility. The plant will address the company's goal of making zero-emissions mobility around the world.

Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM) had revealed plans to unveil 21 gas-electric hybrid models by 2015, most of them having a similarity with its widely acclaimed Prius. As many as 14 vehicles among these hybrids will be all new.

This apart, Toyota plans to launch a fuel cell vehicle, which runs on hydrogen to produce electricity, by 2015. However, Toyota will launch eQ (iQ EV in the U.S.) in limited numbers due to a conservative view on the global hybrid vehicles market.

GM, a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock, posted a 9.7% fall in earnings to 93 cents per share (excluding special items) in the third quarter of the year from $1.03 in the corresponding quarter a year ago. However, earnings per share in the quarter far exceeded the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 61 cents.

Revenues in the quarter grew 2.5% to $37.6 billion, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $36.3 billion. Worldwide sales volume inched up 1.6% to 2.3 million units from 2.2 million units a year ago. However, total market share declined to 11.6% from 12.1% in the third quarter of 2011.

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