Ford Shares Jump on Morgan Stanley Double Upgrade

Ford Motor Co. (F) could surprise the market with cost-savings and profit repositioning potential, according to Morgan Stanley.

In its first move in close to four years when it comes to Ford, Morgan Stanley raised its investment rating to "overweight" from "underweight" and set a $15 price target, implying shares can gain around 40% from Tuesday’s close. That was enough to send the stock higher in pre-market action, with it recently trading at $11.24, up $0.46 or 4.28%. So far this year, shares of the Detroit, Michigan car manufacturer are down nearly 15%.

According to Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, in the near-term Ford could benefit from President Donald Trump’s infrastructure initiatives while over the long haul the car maker could surprise if its turnaround efforts pick up, reported the TheStreet. He raised his forecast for the first time in 24 months. The report added that Ford is now the investment firm's highest ranked U.S. OEM stock and a top 3 U.S. auto pick overall, according to Reuters. Stock catalysts include restructuring actions and exits from certain markets, wrote Jonas. He also said the F series (light-duty and medium-duty trucks) may be worth more than 150% of the company's enterprise value. (See more: Ford to Sell Cars in China Via Tmall: Report.)

The bullish call out of Morgan Stanley comes as concerns are rising that U.S. vehicle manufacturers will be negatively impacted by President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. Late last week the White House’s proposal for a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% levy on imported aluminum became policy with Canada, Mexico and Australia getting exemptions. While it's not clear if the tariffs will spark trade wars with other countries, it could result in prices of steel and aluminum rising, which could impact automobile manufacturers and ultimately consumers purchasing new cars and trucks. On top of the potential of passing more costs on to consumers, if other countries impose their own tariffs in revenge it could hurt international exports for the car makers including Ford. (See more: Which Stocks Will Win or Lose From Steel, Aluminum Tariffs?)

While Morgan Stanley doesn’t appear concerned about the potential impact of tariffs, rival Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs does. As pointed out by, it said last week the Trump tariffs could result in a $1 billion increase in costs of materials for Ford and General Motors (GM). If steel prices increase 25% it would lower Ford’s operating income by roughly 12%. For General Motors it would be a 7% reduction Morgan Stanley estimated, noted JPMorgan analyst Ryan Brinkman lowered his earnings target on Ford on Monday, but he added in his report that the effect of the tariffs will probably be much less than the market is assuming.

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