NEW YORK (July 17)—Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. left its "neutral" rating of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in place, despite the manufacturer's decreased profits during the second quarter. In a research report, John Casesa, an analyst with the firm, said he estimates the company will make 67 cents per share in the second half of the year vs. 38 cents in the first half. "This (second-half) improvement reflects our expectation that there is probably not much more downside left to replacement tire demand, though the timing of a rebound remains in question," Casesa said. "It also reflects our view that (Cooper) may begin to benefit in terms of market share from Goodyear Tire's ongoing financial and labor troubles." Merrill Lynch expects vehicle production volumes in North America to decline during the second half, but the anticipated losses will be offset partially by new business Cooper will launch during the third and fourth quarters, Casesa said in the report.