April U.S. light-vehicle sales could equate to the market’s lowest seasonally adjusted annual rate since October, according to a WardsAuto forecast.

U.S. auto makers are expected to sell 1.31 million cars and light trucks in the month, equivalent to a 52,205-unit daily rate (over 25 selling days) and 6.1% improvement from year-ago (24 days).

While the resulting 15.1 million SAAR would be just a hair below the first quarter’s 15.2 million, it also would mark the second consecutive month-to-month decline and the first time the SAAR has fallen below 15.2 million since surging to 15.5 million in November.

Economic tea leaves come in a mixed bag this month.

The March-end Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers indicates a continued rise in consumer confidence from February to March. But the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index fell 8.3 points, as the board’s Present Situation and Expectation indices both suffered month-to-month declines.

The U.S. Commerce Dept. reported downturns in retail spending across a number of sectors in March, even as daily vehicle sales rose 7.2% over year-ago and the SAAR hit 15.2 million units.

While the government’s March jobs report showed relatively few new hires, the housing market, which has helped bolster automotive sales in recent months, continues to improve, with increases in both new housing starts and existing home prices posted.

The conflicting indicators have WardsAuto forecasting U.S. LV sales to continue close to the first-quarter pace.

Look for a strong month from General Motors, which should see volume of 233,000 LVs, lifting its market share to 17.8% in April compared with 17% in March. The forecast 4.7% rise in the daily sales rate from year-ago reflects strong expectations for the auto maker’s light trucks, in particular.

Ford daily sales are projected to rise 12.1% on 207,000 units. Fueled by continued momentum for the Fusion midsize sedan and Escape cross/utility-vehicle, the auto maker’s market share should near prior-month’s 16%.

Chrysler’s expected 6.8% DSR bump on 157,000 LV sales would earn it a 12% cut of forecast deliveries. That would lift the Detroit Three to a combined 45.7% market share, nearly a full point above their March take.

Honda should build on strong March results, with the revamped Civic and newly incented Accord sales leading the way. The WardsAuto outlook calls for the auto maker to grab as much as 10.1% of monthly sales, with 131,000 deliveries, improving its DSR 3.5% over a strong year-ago period.

Toyota, which will roll back fleet participation considerably this month compared with year-ago levels, likely will see its daily rate dip 3.4%, with forecast deliveries of fewer than 180,000 units dropping its market share below 14%.

The WardsAuto forecast also calls for Nissan’s share to fall precipitously – to 6.6% from the prior month’s 9.5% – as it absorbs the end-of-fiscal-year, pull-ahead sales that lifted its monthly volume to a record high in March.

Hyundai-Kia is expected to sell 110,000 LVs, giving the South Korean brands a combined 8.4% of the market, despite a 3.8% drop in daily deliveries from year-ago.

The April forecast would bring year-to-date LV sales to 4.98 million units, a 7.4% improvement on like-2012.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com