S&P Futures, Global Stocks Slide As European Political Fears Return; Gold Jumps

S&P equity futures followed Asian and European stocks lower, driven by weakness in Franch and Italian markets, as French political concerns returned; the pound tumbled after UK monthly retail sales unexpectedly dropped pushing the dollar higher and Euro lower.

About an hour after the European open, major indices experienced softness despite no fundamental catalyst to see Euro Stoxx 50 lower by 0.5%.  The euro weakened and French bonds declined after the French Socialist Party’s presidential candidate, Benoit Hamon, said he’s in talks with far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon about a single candidacy that would increase the likelihood of a stand -off with far-right front runner Marine le Pen, sending 10y OAT yields up 5bps and 6bps wider against Germany. Gold rebounded 0.2% as a quiet push into safe assets continued.

Global equity markets are set to end the week on a softer footing on Friday, after setting record highs in the previous two sessions, as investors looked for clarity on U.S. President Donald Trump's policies on tax and trade. Confusion over US fiscal and monetary policy has grown as traders have gone back and forth assessing the prospects for President Donald Trump’s economics plans and the timing of U.S. interest-rate increases. Financial conditions have continued to tighten as March rate hike odds jumped after Yellen's congressional testimony: the renewed uptick in 3M OIS and LIbor have yet to impact broader asset classes.

Trump’s plans last week to unveil a “phenomenal” tax policy spurred a rally in stocks, the dollar and emerging-market assets. In Congressional testimony this week, Yellen warned against waiting too long to tighten policy and said a healthier economy may warrant higher interest rates.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets said “many do believe that the market is getting ahead of itself and there is just too much optimism about how far Trump can go with his fiscal and tax plans as he still needs full approval from congress,” said “The chances of that are not that great and this is what makes some investors a little pessimistic.”

Much of the action was again in currencies, with the USDJPY sliding most of the overnight session, dragging global risk sentiment lower. Although the dollar was 0.3 percent firmer on the day, it was hovering near a one-week low against a basket of currencies .DXY and headed for its sixth week of losses in the last eight, as investors awaited substantive market-friendly news from President Donald Trump on tax reform. The greenback hit a one-month high on Wednesday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen supported a near-term rate hike due to signs of robust economic growth. Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo said the dollar's recent bounce lacked conviction.

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