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November Auto Sales to Show Slow Recovery

DETROIT – Major automakers are expected to report flat U.S. auto sales for November from a year ago — another sign the industry is on the mend after a bruising downturn that forced extensive restructuring early this year, Reuters reported.

The results would support the view that the worst of the industry’s four-year slump is over, while analysts and executives caution that high unemployment and sluggish consumer confidence mean that any recovery would be slow and uneven.

U.S. auto sales in November are expected to come in at 10.5 million units on the annualized rate tracked by the industry, according to a median forecast of 36 analysts surveyed by Reuters.

November 2008 sales were 10.4 million units on the annualized rate and October 2009 sales were 10.5 million units.

“As expected, the recovery has been slow, but it is progressing,” said Jeff Schuster, forecasting director at industry tracking firm J.D. Power and Associates.

General Motors Co.’s U.S. sales analyst Mike DiGiovanni said industry sales could exceed an 11 million vehicle annualized rate in November, adding that he was encouraged by some signs of strengthening in the U.S. economy.

GM’s forecast included medium and heavy trucks, which can add up to 300,000 to the annualized rate.

“Obviously, this isn’t a perfectly linear trend. There are some setbacks in some areas,” DiGiovanni told reporters, citing rising unemployment and a decline in single family housing starts in October. “Overall, we feel pretty confident that the economy is on its way back.”

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