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U.S. sales edge up; SAAR hits highest level of year

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U.S. light-vehicle sales, behind strong light-truck demand and elevated incentives, edged up 0.4 percent in October, signaling the second-half slowdown that began in July is moderating.

The seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate for October came in at 17.59 million, the highest of the year, and well above forecasts for 17.3 million, but down from 17.9 million in October 2017, when demand soared following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. October marked the eighth month in 2018 the annualized pace of sales has topped 17 million.

U.S. auto sales in 2018 have now risen 0.5 percent through October but analysts still expect the second-half slowdown to continue. Volume skidded three straight months beginning in July, with the September decline – 5.5 percent – the largest of the year.

FCA US and Toyota Motor Corp. posted higher U.S. sales, propelled by strong truck deliveries, but General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Honda volumes slid behind the ongoing slump in car demand.

“Many signs in the economy would suggest that vehicle demand should be moderating – higher interest rates, import tariffs, weak housing market, stock market volatility, elevated gas prices – yet vehicle buying remains strong,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive.

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