European Auto Stocks Rally After Tariff Reprieve, Then Resume Fall

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 38th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Day service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Trump is poised to delay a decision by up to six months to impose auto tariffs to avoid blowing up negotiations with the EU and Japan as he ramps up his trade war with China, according to people close to the discussions. Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg

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European auto stock prices rallied briefly, then resumed their recent slide, after reports President Trump had delayed a decision on possible auto and auto parts tariffs for up to 6 months.

The European STOXX 600 automobile and parts index jumped 2.5% before resuming the downtrend, in place since the high of 550 set April 18 and undermined by poor first quarter results from the big auto manufacturers and waning long-term prospects for the global industry.

The index had fallen to 509.81 on May 13, jumped after news of the tariff reprieve, then resumed the downtrend. In late morning Thursday the STOXX 600 was down about 1% at about 491. BMW was down 0.5%, Volkswagen off nearly 1% and Mercedes parent Daimler slid almost 2.5%.

Investment researcher Evercore ISI pointed out that the U.S. tariff delay decision had not yet been officially confirmed, but worried that any imposition clouded the possibility of a sales recovery in Europe.

On Wednesday, a report from S&P Global Ratings said Europe had been expected to provide a little car sales growth in 2019, but now it sees stagnation this year. S&P also said U.S. sales will fall 3.6% in 2019 and will stabilize at between 16.3 to 16.5 million from its previous forecast of 16.8 million, and China sales are now likely to fall by 3%. S&P previously expected growth of between 1 and 2% in China.

The German manufacturers are in the firing line of any tariff war between the U.S. and Europe.

“The German 3 (BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler) would be heavily impacted and we calculate that the EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) impact would be 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) assuming the full 25% tariff,” Evercore ISI said in a report.

U.S. tariffs on auto imports from Europe are 2.5%, while Europe charges U.S. manufacturers four times as much.