updated 10/19/2004 11:03:30 AM ET 2004-10-19T15:03:30

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday that third-quarter results swung to a profit on strong financial services revenue and automotive sales that beat Wall Street expectations.

Quarterly earnings rose to $266 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with a loss of $25 million, or 1 cent per share, a year ago. Third-quarter earnings from continuing operations, excluding special items, were $537 million, or 28 cents per share, in the latest quarter.

Ford's total revenue rose to $39 billion from $36.7 billion in the year-ago period.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were looking for Ford to post earnings of 14 cents per share on revenue of $31.18 billion in the latest quarter.

Worldwide automotive sales for the third quarter rose to $32.8 billion from $30.2 billion in the same period last year. Worldwide vehicle-unit sales were 1.51 million, up from 1.42 million a year ago.

"Overall, we had a good third quarter," said Don Leclair, group vice president and chief financial officer. "We are on track to deliver this year's milestone of $1 billion in automotive pre-tax profits, excluding special items. Our results show continued strong performance in financial services and continuing improvement in North American revenue, even though the market remains difficult."

Ford said new products in the fourth quarter should improve its U.S. market share. South America, Asia-Pacific/Africa and Mazda operations were all profitable in the latest period.

As a result, Ford increased its 2004 full-year earnings guidance to a range of $2 to $2.05 per share from continuing operations, excluding special items, from prior estimates of $1.90 to $2 per share. The company said the higher estimates primarily reflect the strong performance of Ford's financial services sector.

Analysts are expecting full-year earnings, excluding items, of $2.04 per share.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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