FRANKFURT -- European car sales in the crucial month of September got off to a patchy start Friday, but car stocks held up well after two weeks of weakness.
Analysts are paying special attention to September sales to see if consumers come back from summer holidays and pick up their spending in what has been a generally sluggish year.
But new-car registrations in France fell 0.7 percent in September, bringing the year-to-date decline to 1.2 percent and the underlying drop -- based on the same number of business days -- to 3.3 percent, French car industry association CCFA said.
PSA, Europe's No. 2 carmaker, saw its domestic sales slip 1.0 percent in September compared with the year-earlier month, while registrations of Renault cars fell 4.1 percent, according to the provisional data.
New-car sales in Spain on the other hand rose 6.2 percent year-on-year to 98,309 last month, a spokesman for Spain's National Carmakers' Association ANFAC said. Sales had risen 7.3 percent in August.
Provisional data showed the number of new cars sold in the first nine months of the year rose 11.6 percent to 1.14 million units, making Spain one of Europe's best-performing markets.
According to the European carmakers association ACEA, Germany was the largest European car market in the first eight months of 2004, followed by Britain, Italy, France and Spain.
BMW AG gained 2.75 percent.
One London analyst said the sector was just catching up after prolonged weakness amid high oil prices that could hurt consumer sentiment, margin-crimping rises in steel prices, and currency headwinds from a weak dollar.
"I'd be surprised if this bounce were to continue. This is consolidation after a period of decline," he said.