Emissions Scandal Drives VW Profits Lower

Tuesday, 31st May: Caution is in the air as investors await not only Mario Draghi and the ECB who meet in Vienna on Thursday, but also OPEC, who are also meeting in the Austrian capital. In recent days Brent oil has breached the $50 a barrel mark for the first time in 2016 as natural supply issues took hold. In Canada, the ongoing wild fires that hampered production over the course of May look set to come under control, whilst ongoing conflict in Nigeria has led to the country’s production falling to the lowest level since 2009. There is no expectation for a production freeze being announced on Thursday.

In foreign exchange markets, the pound fell against the euro and US dollar as two ICM polls revealed a greater support for the UK to leave the EU than to remain. In case you weren’t aware, the EU referendum will take place on June 23rd. GBP/EUR is currently -0.48% at €1.31 whilst GBP/USD is -0.57% at $1.46. The US dollar made gains against major currencies as the likelihood for a summer rate rise grew. A rate rise in June (the FED next meet on June 15th) now has a 28% probability. A rate rise in July stands at 61%. The final monthly US jobs report will be announced this Friday, the final one before the Fed’s June meeting. Nonfarm payrolls are expected to be relatively modest at 160k.

In the US, the probability of an interest rate rise over the summer has increased following Fed comments at the back end of last week and over the weekend. Economic data has been seen to be improving, driving the likelihood of a rate rise forward and today, consumer spending data was released. Against expectations of 0.7%, consumer spending grew at its fastest pace in nearly 7 years as personal spending increased 1.0% in April from a month earlier. Consumer spending makes up for more than two-thirds of economic output in the US, which increased at an annual rate of 0.8% (vs 0.9% expected) in Q1 (according to the second estimate announced on Friday).

The British high street is set to lose another name as all 120 Austin Reed stores will close by the end of June after falling into administration last month. 1,000 jobs look set to be lost as no viable offers have been received for the business, according to the administrator. The 116-year old brand was last listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2006 before it was taken private by an investment firm.

Remember VW admitting they had cheated in US emissions tests? Consequently profit has fallen 20% in the first 3 months of the year as it continues to deal with the cheating scandal. Pre-tax profit fell to €3.2bn, down from just shy of €4bn in the same period last year. The car manufacturer has already set aside €16bn to pay for costs arising from the scandal. Group sales revenue fell more than 3% in the quarter, with the company maintaining its forecast of a 5% fall in 2016 sales revenues.

The FTSE 100 ended the day -0.64%, paring back from May highs recorded today. Finishing in the red today has resulted in the index ending May -0.18% lower, when it was on track for a 4th consecutive month of gains. Albeit, the index is ahead by more than 2% year-to-date. The CAC in France and the DAX in Germany both ended the last day of May in the red. The S&P 500 is slightly lower at the time of writing, lower by 0.09%, whilst the Dow Jones in -0.35% following the Public Holiday yesterday.