GM: A Vote of Confidence?

July 17, 2008

Two days after General Motors announced its latest turnaround plan, analysts and investors are still trying to digest what the $15 billion effort actually means for the automaker's long-term survival.

It's not surprising, perhaps, that the reaction by some "stakeholders" was rapid and negative. White-collar retirees, for example, will now be covering their own health care costs - or turning to Medicare - once they hit 65. And the plan eliminates the once-lucrative dividend that many investors counted on.

Some observers, such as Deutsche Bank's Rod Lache, have questions about the depth of GM's latest effort. In an advisory, he wrote, "While we are somewhat more comfortable with questions about short term survival, we continue to question its long term earning power and competitiveness."

Yet despite the initial downturn in GM's share price, Wall Street seems to be warming to the plan laid out by the automaker's CEO Rick Wagoner. As of midday Thursday, shares were up to a seemingly astronomical $12.18, a 6.1 percent rise for the day, and a roughly 40 percent jump from where the stock had fallen, just days before, to a 50-odd-year low of $8.81.

Will GM continue to rebound? I asked Wagoner whether he expected a good response following his news conference on Tuesday, suggesting to him that in the current, near-panic environment, almost nothing seems to be seen in a good light on the Street.

"Conditions are extraordinarily unsettled," the CEO agreed, and there's a generally negative outlook, almost no matter what. "Frankly," he concluded, "we're just going to have to ride it out for awhile."

Perhaps, but if today's upturn is any portent of what's to come, the ride may be just a wee bit easier than it has been in recent weeks. Oh, but to save you the effort, GM still has a long way to go just to hit its 52-week high, which was $43.12, set last October 12.

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