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Ford March U.S. auto sales rise 8 percent

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Ford March U.S. auto sales rise 8 percent
A logo of Ford is pictured on a car at the 86th International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, March 1, 2016.

DETROIT Ford Motor Co (F.N) said its U.S. auto sales rose 8 percent in March, narrowly topping analysts' expectations, as the company benefited from a strong performance by its pickup trucks and SUVs.

Earlier on Friday, Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) reported a 13 percent gain in March U.S. auto sales on the strength of its mainstay sedans.

Nissan's car sales rose 15.6 percent, while its SUV and truck sales were up 9.4 percent, the company said.

Ford said its truck sales increased 11.4 percent, and its utility vehicles rose 14 percent, but its car sales fell 1.6 percent.

March U.S. sales on an annualized basis are expected to come in at around 17.25 million vehicles, a Reuters poll of 10 industry analysts showed, for a gain of about 7 percent from a year earlier.

Monthly auto sales are an early indicator of U.S. consumer behavior.

U.S. non-farm payrolls rose in March by 215,000, slightly topping forecasts, and wages rebounded, government figures showed on Friday.

The strengthening job market is bullish for auto sales as it gives consumers confidence to take out a car loan, analysts have said.

Low gasoline prices, relatively low interest rates and stronger employment have helped boost U.S. auto sales for several years. Demand is also heightened because vehicles have been on road for an average of more than 11 years.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Steve Orlofky and Lisa Von Ahn)

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01 April 2016, 18:42