DETROIT (AP) — Shares of General Motors reached an important milestone Friday, closing above their initial public offering price of $33 for the first time in more than two years.
Shares reached $33.77 before slipping back to close at $33.42, up 3.2 percent.
The auto giant sold shares to the public for $33 in a November 2010 IPO, but they've traded below that price since May 4, 2011.
GM's business is getting stronger. Two weeks ago, the company reported solid first-quarter earnings on robust sales in North America. On Friday, there were signs that sales declines may have bottomed in Europe, where GM has lost money for more than a dozen years.
Shares of all automakers traded in the U.S. have shown double-digit gains this year. GM and Ford are benefiting from strong sales in the U.S. as well as China. And investors believe the Japanese government's economic policies create an advantage for exporters such as Toyota and Honda.
Investors' overall enthusiasm for stocks has also helped automakers. And as stock markets set records, investors use some of their gains for a down payment on a car or truck.
GM's 14 percent gain this year is also notable because of its top shareholder: the U.S. Treasury.
The government has been selling off the GM shares it received after giving the company a $49.5 billion bailout in 2008-09. The government has pledged to taxpayers it will sell off its remaining 16 percent stake in GM by early next year. The rising stock price may hasten that.
That would be fine with GM, which has long complained that government ownership has discouraged some car buyers from considering GM and discouraged some investors from buying shares.
In general, consumers have been anything but discouraged about buying cars.Sales hit 14.5 million last year after bottoming out at 10.4 million in 2009. They're expected to rise as high as 15.5 million this year.
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