AP News

GM shares hit low point as stock market falters

DETROIT (AP) — Shares of General Motors tumbled to their lowest point since the company returned to the public stock market early Monday as worries about the European debt crisis intensified and deflated the broader market.

GM stock hit $18.85 shortly after the market opened, but recovered to 19.30 by late afternoon. That was still down 5 cents. Ford Motor Co. shares also hit a 52-week low during Monday trading, but recovered slightly. They were down 7 cents, to $9.15 per share, in afternoon trading.

Stocks around the world fell sharply lower Monday as investors tried to shed risk on fears that Spain may need a bailout. That pushed up the country's borrowing costs, sent the euro to a two-year low against the dollar, and caused Spain's borrowing costs to soar.

GM has a wide exposure to Europe, where it has been struggling to restructure its operations, made up of the Opel and Vauxhall brands. Last week it replaced its European CEO, perhaps out of frustration with the slow pace of cost-cutting efforts. GM has said it has more factory capacity than sales in Europe. The company has posted losses there for more than a dozen years, including a $256 million in the first quarter and $747 million last year. GM gets about 15 percent of its revenue from Europe.

The Detroit-based company is still 26 percent owned by the U.S. government, which received stock in exchange for a controversial $49.5 billion bailout that got the company through bankruptcy protection. The company, far leaner and free of massive debt, is making money despite the losses in Europe. It reported a $1 billion net profit in the first quarter, on strong performances in North America and China. The company is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings on Aug. 2.

The U.S. government has recovered $22.3 of the GM bailout money from cash payments and stock sales, but is still out $27.2 billion. GM returned to the public markets in November 2010. The government still owns about 500 million shares of the company and would have to sell them for around $54 to break even. At the current stock price, the government would lose roughly $17.6 billion.

GM and Ford weren't the only automakers hurt by Monday's stock market downturn. U.S.-traded shares of Toyota Motor Corp. fell 79 cents, or 1 percent, to $74.34, while Honda Motor Co. shares shed 23 cents, to $31.11. Nissan Motor Co. shares slipped 9 cents to $18.15.

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