Stock Market Today: Ford Stumbles and Colgate-Palmolive Shines

Investors can expect a lower start to the stock market today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost 55 points in pre-market trading. Global markets fell overnight, with European shares lower by 1% as of 7:30 a.m EDT. Corporate earnings continue to dominate the headlines, and this morning is no exception: Ford announced a surprisingly low quarterly profit, while Colgate-Palmolive widened its lead over rival Procter & Gamble .

Market movers

Ford this morning posted quarterly results in which sales improved by roughly 1% to $35.9 billion, which was even with Wall Street's expectations. Worldwide volume grew by 6% as the automaker logged gains in all regions except South America, while hitting a record-high market share in China. However, the $0.24 a share in profit that Ford booked was significantly below last year's haul -- and far from analysts' target of $0.31 a share.

Ford said the shortfall came from a mix of unusual factors that all hit results hard in the quarter, including warranty reserve expenses, which cleaved $500 million from its North American business, safety recalls, and weather-related costs. Those issues where "not representative of the underlying business run rate," the company stated in a press release. Instead, CEO Alan Mulally described the overall results as "solid," and said the automaker looks forward to launching a record 23 new vehicles this year. Ford's stock was down 2% in pre-market trading.

Colgate-Palmolive today announced that its first-quarter profit grew by just 2% on flat sales. Revenue came in at $4.3 billion, even with last year's results, while earnings were $0.68 a share. Beneath those headline numbers, though, it's clear that Colgate solidly outperformed bigger rival Procter & Gamble, which reported earnings earlier in the week. Colgate booked an overall 6.5% boost in organic sales, more than double P&G's 3% figure. The company also improved gross margin to 58.4%, well ahead of P&G's 48.9% result. Emerging markets again made the difference for Colgate this quarter, logging volume gains of 10%, as the company demonstrated why the market has awarded it such a premium valuation. Colgate shares seem well worth the 28 times trailing earnings, even considering P&G's price/earnings multiple is just 22. The stock was unchanged in pre-market trading.

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Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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