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Europe: Autos lead equity gains on Nafta deal optimism


[LONDON] European auto shares surged more than 2 per cent on Monday as news of a US-Mexico agreement on Nafta added to the bullish sentiment generated by US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell's market-friendly speech.

A British public holiday thinned trading volumes across the region but European markets opened broadly firmer after Powell late last week affirmed the US central bank's current gradual pace of rate hikes. The comments sent Wall Street to record highs on Friday.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.5 per cent higher, as the US S&P500 and Nasdaq added to gains, after a Mexican source said the two countries had reached agreement in the North American Free Trade Agreement.

US President Donald Trump had suggested earlier on Monday that the United States and Mexico were close to a "big deal".

The euro stocks index as well as Germany's DAX touched 2-1/2-week highs, with the former closing 0.9 per cent higher and the latter riding 1.2 per cent higher on the back of the auto rally.

Car shares enjoyed their best day in a month with gains of 2.2 per cent. German carmakers, especially, rely on smooth trade between Mexico and the US to sell vehicles made in Mexican plants into the US market. "The biggest risks the market were discounting were trade wars, so any reduction in trade war risk such as Nafta talks or even Trump trying to find bilateral deals, has pushed US shares to new records and will support markets," said Angelo Meda, head of equities and portfolio manager at Banor SIM in Milan.

BMW, Volkswagen, Porsche and Daimler rose 2.5 to 3.0 per cent.

However, also in auto news, the Germany-listed shares of US electric carmaker Tesla fell almost 4 per cent on the Tradegate exchange. Tesla's US shares dipped around 3.3 per cent after chief executive Elon Musk called off a bid to take the company private.

Outside trade-driven moves, Metro shares surged 13.3 per cent after Ceconomy announced it may join family-owned Haniel in selling a stake in the German retailer to an investor group led by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky.

Lundin Petroleum shares climbed 3.5 per cent after Norway's Equinor increased its resource estimate for the Johan Sverdrup oilfield, in which Lundin has a 22.6 per cent stake.

Equinor, which has a 40 per cent stake in the field, gained 1.2 per cent.

The easing of trade tensions should be good news for the Stoxx 600 which is down 1.2 per cent year-to-date due to political developments in Italy and Turkey. There was also good news on the data front on Monday, with a robust German business sentiment survey adding to signs of an improving euro zone outlook.

But while companies have delivered 10.9 per cent year-on-year growth in second-quarter earnings, valuations are low given risks such as Italy's budget, which will be thrashed out in September.

"Europe is one of the cheapest markets in the world, there is for sure a risk premium implied in the valuation," said Banor SIM's Meda.

Italy's FTSE MIB underperformed rivals, rising just 0.3 per cent.

"The only cloud on the horizon is Italy," Mr Meda added. "The feeling I have is nobody has any will to take any risk in the next couple of weeks before we get more clarity on the budget."


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