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US Auto Sales Seen to be Holding Above 12 Million Unit

U.S. November auto sales held above 12 million vehicles on an annual basis, a gain of about 10 percent from a year earlier, driven by month-end discounts and a slow return in consumer demand, according to analysts.

Auto sales for November, one of the first snapshots of consumer behavior at the holiday shopping season, are due to be released Wednesday.

“The pace of light vehicle sales appears to have remained above the important psychological level of 12 million units in November,” Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said in a note to clients last week.

Barclays expects sales to reach about a 12.1 million vehicle annualized rate, down slightly from October’s 12.2 million sales rate, but strong enough to show that “the consumer is crawling back, particularly in the more affluent and higher quality credit segments.”

Hyundai Motor [HYMZY 0.0 — UNCH (0) ] and Ford Motor [F 15.945 -0.115 (-0.72%) ], are expected to have the biggest sales gains, continuing a trend that has seen the two automakers take share from rivals in 2010.

The final weekend of November sales were lifted by Thanksgiving holiday deals sponsored by individual dealers and manufacturers, including Toyota Motor [TM 77.88 -0.37 (-0.47%) ] and Nissan Motor [NSANY 18.78 -0.12 (-0.63%) ], analysts said.

“We’re starting to feel better about how the market is going,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at auto sales tracking and shopping service Edmunds. “It looks like we’re in that slow recovery pattern.”

Economists surveyed by Reuters forecast November auto sales of about 12 million vehicles on the annualized and seasonally adjusted basis tracked by the industry.

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