Ford on Friday reportedly lowered its full-year profit forecast, citing high petrol prices and aggressive discounts by competitors, and said it doesn't expect to reach its goal of hitting $US7 billion in total pre-tax profit by 2006.

The Associated Press (AP) said the news prompted Standard & Poor's Ratings Services to lower its outlook from stable to negative for Ford and its other businesses.

According to AP, Ford now expects 2005 earnings in the range of $1.25 to $1.50 a share compared with the 'lower end of' $1.75 to $1.95 per share, excluding special items, announced last month - it expects automotive pre-tax profit this year to be break-even at best, down from a previous goal of roughly $1.5 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial currently expect full-year earnings of $1.64 per share, the Associated Press added.

The news agency noted that Ford's announcement comes less than a month after General Motors slashed its full-year earnings outlook by more than half, citing poor North American business and rising health care costs.

On a more positive note, Ford reportedly said it expects first-quarter earnings to exceed its previous outlook of 25 cents to 35 cents per share.

Analysts are looking for earnings of 36 cents per share when Ford reports first-quarter results on April 20, the Associated Press said.

AP added that Ford said it no longer expects to reach its goal of $7 billion in total pre-tax profits, excluding special items, as early as 2006, a milestone announced as part of a five-year turnaround bid launched in January 2002.