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An employee fixes a VW sign at a production line of the electric Volkswagen model ID.3 in Zwickau, Germany, Feb. 25, 2020.

Matthias Rietschel/Reuters

An outsized rally in Volkswagen shares has drawn the attention of Germany’s top market watchdog as heavy-volume trading spurred by the car maker’s electric vehicle ambitions sent the stock rising as much as 32 per cent this week.

Shares in Volkswagen AG reversed course on Thursday, however, after hitting their highest level since April, 2015, as regulator BaFin said it was monitoring the share price move and a buying frenzy from the United States appeared to cool down.

A spokeswoman said BaFin was watching the move in a “routine way,” without elaborating.

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A raft of announcements on its electric vehicle expansion strategy to challenge market leader Tesla Inc. has lifted Volkswagen shares more than 50 per cent so far this year, luring institutional and retail investors globally.

Momentum in the share price grew on Monday after the 83-year-old group unveiled it would build 12 battery cell plants in Europe by 2030 and expand charging infrastructure for electric cars.

Interest from U.S. individual investors was particularly strong. Volumes in its American depositary receipts (ADRs), seen as a proxy for retail traders’ interest, peaked at around 20 times the 90-day average on Tuesday.

But on Thursday the U.S.-listed stock halted a five-day winning streak, falling more than 9 per cent in New York trade. That dragged lower shares in Frankfurt, which still remained on course for their best weekly run in nearly a year.

Stefan de Schutter, portfolio manager at Alpha Trading in Frankfurt, said that given the huge price swings, BaFin’s move had to be seen as “business as usual.”

“The shares are dragged down by the ADRs. Seems as if parts of the trade are unwinding,” he said.

Volkswagen’s main shares fell more than 2 per cent by 1523 GMT and the less liquid ordinary stock was still up 6 per cent but off highs. Shares of Porsche, which holds 53.1 per cent of the Volkswagen group’s voting rights, rose 3 per cent.

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Despite the pullback, Volkswagen main shares remained up 19 per cent on the week. The surge has lifted Volkswagen’s market value above US$160-billion, making it the biggest company of the DAX benchmark index, ahead of software group SAP.

“We fundamentally like the name … we think not only institutional, but also a wave of private investors is increasingly interested,” Barclays analysts wrote.

“We think VW ticks all the right boxes and remains very attractively priced,” they added.

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