DETROIT (AP) -- Shares of General Motors Co. hit another 52-week high Tuesday as several analysts predicted strong U.S. sales gains for the company when it releases its April numbers on Wednesday. GM also reports first-quarter earnings on Thursday, and while analysts expect a strong quarter, they see earnings falling a bit from a year ago.
THE SPARK: The TrueCar.com auto pricing site predicts that GM sales rose more than 10 percent in April, while Kelley Blue Book expects a 12 percent gain. U.S. sales are important because it's by far GM's most lucrative market. GM also is expected to announce strong earnings Thursday, with solid performances in North America and China offsetting poor sales in Europe.
THE BIG PICTURE: The whole U.S. auto industry is selling more pickup trucks as the economy continues its slow recovery. The housing industry is improving after a four-year slump, so home builders, carpenters and laborers are more likely to buy new work trucks. That helps GM because the Chevrolet Silverado pickup is by far the company's top-selling vehicle.
THE SHARES: GM shares have performed well in 2013, rising 7 percent since the start of the year, although the Standard & Poor's 500 index is up almost 12 percent in that period. Late April was particularly good for GM, with the shares pushing toward $31. The stock hit a 52-week high of $30.97 on Tuesday morning before pulling back to $30.81 by late afternoon, up 2 cents. It hit 52-week highs of $30.90 two times in the past week.
The share price is inching its way closer to its $33 initial offering price back in November of 2010. The increase is helping the U.S. government sell off its stake in the company. The government has cut its stake to 241 million shares, or 16.4 percent. It had 500 million shares after the IPO, but has pledged to sell them all by early next year. The government got the stock in exchange for a $49.5 billion bailout. So far it's recovered $30.4 billion. The shares would have to sell for around $79 each for the government to break even.