Auto dealer stocks fall on earnings reports

NEW YORK -- Auto dealer earnings for the third quarter have largely lived up to expectations, but apparently investors wanted more.

Shares of AutoNation Inc. and Group 1 Automotive Inc. fell sharply Thursday, even as the companies' results met the forecasts of analysts surveyed by FactSet.

AutoNation shares dropped $2.11, or 4.4 percent, to $45.93 in afternoon trading. If that holds, it would be the steepest decline in the shares since Jan. 4. Group 1 shares fell $2.06, or 3.3 percent, to $59.78. AutoNation's profit of 66 cents per share matched Wall Street estimates, as did Group 1's bottom line of $1.32 per share. But both companies have routinely topped analyst forecasts, according to FactSet.

Even with Thursday's losses, shares of both companies are showing double-digit gains for the year. The companies have outperformed the S&P 500 due to improved sales of new cars and trucks.

Two other dealer stocks also dropped. Sonic Automotive Inc., which reported lower-than-expected earnings Tuesday, fell 2.7 percent to $18.44 and Penske Automotive Group Inc. dropped 2 percent to $29.72.