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Auto Sales Higher; Dollar Surges Ahead

May 4, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ Major U.S. automakers say their combined late-April domestic sales edged up only 1.5 percent from a year earlier but that sales for the full month rose 5.1 percent in the best April performance in seven years.

Meanwhile, the dollar surged ahead Friday to extend a rally in which the currency has recovered more than half its loss suffered in a steep decline earlier this year.

The civilian jobless rate was unchanged in April at 7.3 percent, the first time in a year the rate has held steady for three months running, the Labor Department said.

The major automakers said their combined sales during April 21-30 edged up to 282,654 cars from 278,540 a year earlier.

The list of major producers grew to seven in April as Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. of Japan began selling cars made by its subsidiary in Smyrna, Tenn.

The companies sold 788,282 cars in April, or 30,319 per day, compared with 721,091, or 28,844 per day, in April 1984. The 5.1 percent improvement is based on sales per day, since there was one more selling day this year than in 1984.

It was the best April for the industry since it sold 33,932 cars per day in the boom year of 1978.

Chrysler Corp. said its April sales rose 24.6 percent and Ford Motor Co. sales rose 12.1 percent, but industry leader General Motors Corp., still suffering flat sales, reported a 0.6 percent decline.

Japanese automakers, which report their sales only monthly, also gained in April, with combined sales of cars imported to the United States up 15 percent from a year earlier to 5,605 per day from 4,878.

The sales gains might have reflected purchases by consumers who were worried that sales incentives in effect during April would lapse in May, said analyst David Healy of the investment firm Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.

But GM, Ford and Chrysler have extended 8.8 percent financing on a limited number of cars and American Motors Corp. still offers 8.5 percent financing.

The Federal Reserve Board said its index measuring the dollar against 10 other currencies rose 1.5 percent Friday, bringing its gains since April 18 to 7.2 percent. The dollar had tumbled 12.4 percent between Feb. 25 and April 18.

Part of the dollar’s earlier loss was attributed to a slowdown in U.S. economic growth, and recent figures, including Friday’s unemployment report, have yet to signal a turnaround.

But traders view the slowdown as ″a very temporary thing,″ said Jack Barbanel, a first vice president at Gruntal & Co. Inc., a New York investment firm.

U.S. interest rates, which determine the yields available on dollar- denominat ed investments, fell in the money markets but that also failed to halt the dollar’s advance.

″The steamroller for the dollar is on its way and no one is going to stand in its way because it is shrugging off all negative news,″ said Albert Soria, a vice president at the New York branch of Swiss Bank Corp.

The Labor Department said 217,000 new jobs were created in April, more than 80 percent of them in the service sector. Employment in manufacturing fell by 44,000. The number of jobless Americans was 8.4 million for the third month.

″The continued stickiness of the unemployment rate is evidence that the economy has become squishy soft,″ said John M. Albertine, president of the American Business Conference.

Joblessness has been between 7.1 percent and 7.5 percent since last May.

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