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Ford's like the GM in the corner nobody's talking about — until yesterday. Ford's stock price hit a 52-week low after Fitch Ratings dropped Ford's credit rating to BB minus — three levels below what's considered "investment grade." That put's Ford's shares at a value of $12.7 billion, or one-fifth of what it was worth five years ago. Talk about a negative return on your investment. But Fitch ain't the only ones jumping ship — earlier in the week Moody's Investors Service said it was also thinking about a downgrade. Oh and how's this for eerie. What was the closing price on Ford stock yesterday? $6.66

Despite the biblical implications, Ford isn't...

...taking this laying down in the proverbial "butt in the air" position. FoMoCo's making some "bold moves" like offering zero-interest financing and a debit card good for $1,000 in free gas...wait a second...didn't someone else "innovate" like this already? Oh yeah, both Chrysler and GM have offered similiar programs. No wonder Fitch Ratings had the following comment in their press release on the downgrade:

"Despite an aggressive spending plan in 2006 to reduce its fixed cost structure, persistently high commodity prices, and financial and operational stresses at Ford's supply base are likely to more than offset any progress in 2006, and Fitch expects that Ford will see little relief in either cost category over the near term. The unfavorable trend of revenues and key cost factors is expected to result in accelerated negative cash flows through 2006 and into 2007.

Ford will be challenged to reverse negative cash flows given a relatively sparse product pipeline over the next several years. Ford has taken a number of steps to address its fixed cost structure...Ford's latest restructuring program extends through the 2012, with the bulk of facility closures not commencing until after 2007, limiting Ford's ability to achieve near-term cost reductions."

Hmm...despite the "bold moves" — the lack of anything coming down the product pipeline over the next few years is going to be costly. Does this mean the "Super Chief" won't be Ford's savior? What about the "Reflex?"

So after reading all this cheery news, we're gonna ask Farago — when's that "Ford Death Watch" starting, huh?

Storm clouds gather over Ford [Detroit News]

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