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Ford profit beats estimates on strength in North America

Ford Motor on Tuesday posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as strength in the No. 2 U.S. automaker's core North American market offset losses in Europe and South America.

The company, whose shares rose more than 3 percent, also affirmed the 2014 profit outlook that it presented to investors last month. Ford has described 2014 as a transition year that will test the strength of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally's team and the company's restructuring since he took over in 2006.

Ford said last month that the cost of introducing new vehicles and a deteriorating Venezuelan economy would dent its profit this year. The news sent the company's shares to their biggest one-day percentage drop in more than two years.

(Read more: Ford exec backpedals after saying it tracks drivers)

However, the stock regained ground after Mulally quashed speculation earlier this month that he would leave Ford for the top job at Microsoft. He has emphasized that he remains engaged in the company's day-to-day operations as well as setting long-term strategy.

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Ford's net income in the fourth quarter rose to $3 billion, or 74 cents a share, compared with almost $1.6 billion, or 40 cents a share, a year earlier.

The results included a $2.1 billion gain from the addition of deferred tax assets to the balance sheet, as well as charges of $311 million for last year's pension buyouts and layoffs in Europe.

Excluding one-time items, Ford earned 31 cents a share, 3 cents more than analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected.

(Read more: Ford betsbig with its big truck)

Revenue rose 4 percent to $37.6 billion, above analysts' expectations of $35.17 billion.

On Tuesday, Ford said it still expected a global profit this year of between $7 billion and $8 billion, with lower auto operating margins.

The company said its global pension plans were underfunded by $9 billion at the end of 2013, an improvement of $10 billion from the end of 2012 and $1 billion better than it had previously forecast.

(Read more: Why CEO Mulally staying sets Ford up for big 2014)

Shares of Ford were up 3.3 percent at $16.23 in trading before the market opened. (Click here to track the company's shares following the report.)

By Reuters

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