Stocks Fall as GDP Growth, Morning Earnings Miss Estimates

The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in more than a year and a half last quarter, but it wasn’t as fast as some experts had predicted. GDP grew 2.8% in the last three months of 2011. That’s good, but shy of analyst estimates of at least 3%. The miss has stocks down 0.5% in morning trading.

Likewise, the latest earnings reports weren’t quite up to snuff. Here’s how some of the bigger companies did when their fourth-quarter earnings were announced this morning:

  • Ford Motor (NYSE: F): The auto maker recorded the biggest fourth-quarter profits in the company’s long history. And yet, it missed earnings-per-share expectations, sending the stock tumbling more than 4% in morning trading. Ford’s earnings were inflated by a one-time, $12.4 billion tax allowance; without it, the company made $1.1 billion, or 20 cents a share, in profits – five cents shy of analysts’ 25-cent per-share estimate, and 10 cents short of the 30 cents a share the company earned in the same quarter a year ago. Ford blamed the miss on slower sales in Europe and lost production due to flooding in Thailand. Still, considering the circumstances, overall Ford had a good year. The company’s net profits of $20.2 billion, or $4.94 a share, was more than three times its 2011 haul of $6.6 billion, or $1.66 a share. It was Ford’s most profitable year since 1998.


  • Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG): Profits at the world’s largest consumer-goods company fell 49% last quarter. Higher commodity costs and a sizable write-down on the company’s $57 billion acquisition of Gillette were to blame. The good news is that without the write-down, P&G would have come in on the high end of consensus earnings expectations. The bad news is that the company has downgraded its profit forecast for 2012, from a previous range of $4.15 to $4.33 a share to a more tempered $4 to $4.10 range. Despite the earnings miss, P&G stock is down just a tick (0.3%) in morning trading, to $64.55 a share.


  • Altria (NYSE: MO): The Richmond, Va., tobacco company’s earnings fell 9% in the fourth quarter, sending the stock down 1.4% to $28.26 as of 10:41 this morning. Profits of $836 million were down from $919 million a year earlier. Also during its morning earnings announcement, Altria named a successor to retiring chairman Michael Szymanczyk. Current vice chair Martin Barrington will assume the reins as of May 17.


  • Chevron (NYSE: CVX): The second-largest energy company in the U.S. posted its biggest profit drop in two years. The main culprits were a substantial drop-off in refining margins and costly maintenance work at a California plant. The stock is down nearly 3% in morning trading.
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