Slovakia to feel most pain from Trump car tariffs

The carmaking sector has a 44 percent share of Slovakia’s total industrial production and 35 percent of its exports. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018

Slovakia to feel most pain from Trump car tariffs

  • Slovakia boasts Germany’s Volkswagen — the country’s biggest private-sector employer — France’s PSA and South Korean Kia along with more than 300 automotive supply companies
  • Carmakers based in Slovakia have so far declined to comment on possible US tariffs

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia: As the world’s largest per capita car producer, Slovakia stands to be hit hardest if US President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to impose a 20 percent tariff on cars imported from the EU, analysts say.
Trump’s threat was the latest salvo in an escalating trade war that saw the European Union slap duties on US-made jeans and motorcycles in a tit-for-tat response to US tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports.
The specter of US tariffs that sent shares in Fiat Chrysler, Daimler and BMW tumbling on European stock exchanges also spooked Slovakia’s automotive sector.
It boasts Germany’s Volkswagen — which is Slovakia’s biggest private-sector employer — France’s PSA and South Korean Kia along with more than 300 automotive supply companies.
All told, they generate over 300,000 jobs in the eurozone country of 5.4 million. Jaguar Land Rover will also open a new plant in September.
This makes Slovakia the EU’s leading car and car part exporter to the United States in terms of share of GDP — and the most vulnerable to tariffs.
“The ratio of overseas car exports to Slovakia’s GDP is significantly the highest among all countries of the EU, with it being up to 1.7 percent,” the Slovak Institute for Financial Policy (IFP) said in a study.
“An increase in customs duties on car imports would have the biggest impact on Slovakia,” it concluded.
As the only Slovakia-based carmaker that exports directly to the US, Volkswagen — and its many local suppliers — will suffer the most should US tariffs be slapped on the high-end Touareg, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne models produced at its Bratislava plant.
Overall, the carmaking sector has a 44 percent share of Slovakia’s total industrial production and 35 percent of its exports.
Last year, 1,001,520 cars rolled off assembly lines in Slovakia and exports were worth €3.7 billion ($4.3 billion).
Annual production has exceeded one million cars in each of the last three years and is forecast to grow by more than a third by 2020.
A 25 percent tariff on cars could cost Slovakia approximately €90 million, according to IFP calculations.
Tariffs would “definitely pose a challenge for Slovak carmakers reaching out to customers in the United States,” Jan Pribula, Secretary General of the Automotive Industry Association of the Slovak Republic (ZAP), said.
Slovak Economy Minister Peter Ziga has said that Bratislava would rally for unity across the EU in the interests of keeping the car sector tariff-free.
Carmakers based in Slovakia have so far declined to comment on possible US tariffs.
“As these plans are only speculations, we will not comment on them,” Volkswagen Slovakia spokesman Michal Ambrovic said.
The German company’s Slovak operation produced 361,776 cars last year, and 99.7 percent of its production was exported, with 20 percent to the US, according to an internal report made available to AFP.
Groupe PSA Slovakia, maker of Citroën C3 and Peugeot 208 in Trnava, also declined to comment on the tariff impact, but spokesman Peter Svec did say that its plant does not sell to the US market.
PSA produced 335,296 cars in 2017, 91 percent of its production was sold to customers EU countries, according to the company annual report.
KIA Slovakia spokesman Andrej SaHajj also confirmed that sales of its vehicles are restricted to Europe.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.