FRANKFURT -- Shares in German sportscar maker Porsche rose to a 2-1/2 month high on Friday on strong North American sales last month while other European auto stocks lost ground.
Porsche, the world's most profitable automaker, at one point jumped as much as 4.6 percent to 345 euros -- their highest level since mid February -- before dropping to about a 2 percent rise.
The DJ Stoxx European auto index was down 1.67 percent as peers exposed to the world's biggest auto market of the U.S. fared less well in April and also on weak French car sales data for last month.
Porsche, facing declining demand for its sports cars, said it sold 47 percent more vehicles in April than a year earlier in the United States and Canada, where it sells roughly half its cars, due entirely to its new Cayenne sports utility vehicle.
The increase drops to 40 percent when U.S. figures are adjusted for the number of selling days in the month.
Porsche clocked up the biggest U.S. sales growth last month of any carmaker, although some other European players including Saab, a unit of General Motors, and Ford's Volvo and Land Rover marques also gained.
Analysts said overall the April U.S. figures did not bode well for the year. Demand for cars and light trucks fell 6.2 percent and lower sales were reported by BMW, Volkswagen and both the Chrysler and Mercedes units of DaimlerChrysler.
Carmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are struggling to offset dwindling demand for vehicles and fierce pricing pressure this year by slashing costs and launching new models but few analysts are betting on profit growth for many players.
"The data as a whole leaves us with the impression that there will be no short term improvement overall for volumes and pricing pressure will continue," said one Frankfurt based analyst.
Lehman provided further gloom by cutting tis recommendation on GM to "underweight" from "equal weight", saying a lower market share outlook was driving production and earnings forecasts lower.
VW was the biggest loser in Europe. Excluding Audi, its U.S. sales slid 19 percent on an adjusted basis.
"Together with the weaker U.S. dollar these U.S. sales numbers could put some pressure on the share prices of German car manufacturers," said a major German bank in a research note.
French auto stocks also fell after domestic sales data showed demand sliding for the seventh consecutive month.
Carmaking association CCFA said French sales skidded 13 percent last month as uncertainties linked to the war in Iraq and domestic economic troubles weighed on consumer spending.
Both PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Renault saw domestic sales fall sharply while Japanese and Korean carmakers bucked the market trend.
"The French are not getting any help from their home market which is always important and there isn't any sign of an improvement in the short-term," said one London-based analyst.