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Japanese automakers close out 2005 with a strong quarter

With 2005 earnings announcements for Japan's automakers due next week, investment analysts are predicting strong profit growth, boosted by rising sales and the declining value of the yen.
2005 was a record production year for Toyota, Nissan and Honda, analysts are confident that upcoming new model launches in key market segments in the U.S., Europe and Japan will set up Toyota and Honda for continued strong results in 2006.

Nissan may not fare as well, with fewer new models to stimulate sales, and an inventory bubble after pulling ahead sales before October.

With a vibrant product mix and strong sales, the weak yen is icing on the cake for the Japanese automakers. Toyota stands to post gains of as much as $515 million from the favorable currency shift, for example.

Consensus estimates put Toyota's operating profit last quarter at $4.16 billion, up 15 percent year-over-year. Honda profits in the same quarter are estimated at $1.61 billion, up 19 percent.

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