Honda Motor's earnings will hit bottom this year than start to improve as vehicle markets pick up in the second half, CEO Takeo Fukui has said.

He described the first quarter of this year to Reuters as "the nadir", but added things would gradually start to improve in the next two quarters.

He said: ""I'm definitely expecting the second half to turn up, and on an annual basis I think this year will be the floor."

With sales slumping globally, and particularly in the United States, its biggest market, Honda lost a net JPY186 bn (US$2bn) in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008/09, versus a profit of JPY25.4 bn a year earlier. For the year to March 2010, Honda forecast a 71% drop in net profit to JPY40 bn.

Fukui said he thought the US market had also reached bottom and predicted recovery in the latter half of 2009."A 10m unit (a year) market is abnormal for the United States," he said.

"I think there's latent demand for 13 to 14m units annually, and we'll get back to that level at some point."