DETROIT -- Shares of Ford Motor Co. hit their lowest level in at least 15 years on Tuesday as a litany of worries weighed on shares of Detroit's Big Three automakers and their suppliers.
Ford's shares have been battered over the past few days as investors fretted about the outlook for U.S. auto sales and Ford's fledgling recovery after suffering massive losses in 2001, while consumers worry about war in Iraq and a weakening economy.
The declining stock markets also magnify concerns about the funding of automakers' pension plans, whose financial health depend on rising markets.
In an unusual move, Ford, the No. 2 automaker, has yet to release a North American production forecast for the second quarter, but has said it would be lower than a year ago. Goldman Sachs analyst Gary Lapidus said in a note Tuesday that March auto sales appeared to be running at a weak pace, making a 10 percent to 12 percent decline in Ford's production likely.
"Ford hoped that strong March sales would justify a positive revision to its (second-quarter) production schedule before releasing it," Lapidus said "That does not seem likely given the March sales weakness."
Bond prices on much of Ford's $125 billion in outstanding debt have also taken a hit over the past several days after a credit analyst suggested Ford was on the brink of bankruptcy, a contention the company refuted. Much of Ford's debt comes from its credit arm's financing of car sales, and Ford has $23 billion in cash on hand.
In afternoon trading, Ford shares were down 3.6 percent, or 25 cents, at $6.74 on the New York Stock Exchange, their lowest level since November 1991. Yields on Ford's bonds narrowed early in trading, but then widened again.
Shares of General Motors were down 2 percent, or 66 cents, at $30.02, while shares of DaimlerChrysler AG were also down about 2 percent.
GM gave a pessimistic outlook for the second quarter last week, announcing a 10 percent cut in production over the same period a year ago. Those cuts have hit shares of major auto suppliers, which have benefited from high U.S. auto sales in recent years. Shares of Delphi Corp. were down about 3 percent, while shares of Visteon Corp. and Lear Corp. were down about 4 percent.