Risks to the pound, euro ahead of elections in U.K. and France
NEW YORK - The euro and stocks on major markets recovered on Thursday as a market-friendly presidential candidate held the lead ahead of Sunday's first-round election in France, while the yen and U.S. Treasury prices weakened.
Former French finance minister, Emmanuel Macron, remained atop the polls for Sunday's French vote, but the election is still a four-way battle in the first round on April 23. Should Macron rank first or second in Sunday's poll, he is seen easily winning the run-off vote on May 7 after remaining candidates are eliminated.
However, after surprises in last year's U.S. election and the U.K. Brexit referendum, voter indecision and low voter turnout could catch markets wrong-footed yet again.
France's CAC stock index jumped 1.7 per cent on its strongest daily performance since March 1.
On Wall Street, stocks rose as traders continued to bet on a strong earnings reporting season. Profits at S&P 500 index companies are estimated to have risen 11.1 per cent in the first quarter.
"As we see a steady stream of earnings, on balance the season has been better and that's helping the market today," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 99.16 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 20,503.65, the S&P 500 gained 10.19 points, or 0.44 per cent, to 2,348.36 and the Nasdaq Composite added 32.61 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 5,895.65.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.25 per cent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.49 per cent.
Emerging market stocks rose 0.65 per cent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.7 per cent higher, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.01 per cent.
Currency traders said short-term players were closing out positions taken in anticipation of euro weakness before the French election, emboldened by the steady stream of polls confirming that centrist Macron would lead returns on Sunday.
"Short euro is still one of the larger positions out there. No risk on the table means take some of that off," said BMO strategist Stephen Gallo.
"(But) there is still no fundamental reason for the euro to be rising here."
The U.S. dollar index fell 0.29 percent, with the euro up 0.56 per cent to $1.0769.
The Japanese yen weakened 0.34 per cent versus the greenback at 109.25 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2828, up 0.40 per cent on the day.
Oil prices fell further after Wednesday's steep losses, with rising U.S. production weighing against comments from leading Gulf oil producers that an extension to OPEC-led supply cuts was likely.
U.S. crude rose 0.1 per cent to US$50.49 per barrel and Brent was last at US$53.03, up 0.19 per cent on the day.
U.S. Treasury yields rose as investors waited on the results from the French election, after the 10-year yield earlier failed to break below key technical resistance at 2.19 per cent.
Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.2445 per cent, from 2.202 per cent late on Wednesday.
Spot gold added 0.2 per cent to US$1,281.27 an ounce. U.S. gold futures percent to US$1,283.40 an ounce.
Copper rose 1.43 per cent to US$5,635.50 a tonne.