European, US Stocks In Eerie Calm As French Vote Looms
Global markets were oddly calm on Friday, the last day of trading before the first round of France's closely fought presidential election, with European stocks posting modest declines ahead of Sunday's main event, Asian shares rising, and set for first weekly gain in the past month, while U.S. futures were unchanged. French bond yields hit three-months low even as the euro has seen some recent weakness.
The long awaited French Presidential Election is now nearly upon us with the first round taking place this Sunday. We'll likely get exit polls soon after polls close at 7pm local time (8pm BST) with any delays caused by the fact that a few stations are open for an extra hour. In terms of the how the polls are looking, yesterday there was a lot of focus on a Harris poll which showed that support for Macron was running at 24.5% in the first round (compared to 23% ish in other polls) and support for Le Pen is at 21% (versus 22-23% in other polls). Melenchon and Fillon came in with support at 19% and 20% respectively. French assets had a strong day yesterday and outperformed other European assets on the back of that Harris poll. The CAC closed +1.48% for its best day since March 1st. That compared to a much smaller +0.22% gain for the Stoxx 600.
Trading along with the latest polls, the euro has shown little signs of anxiety days before the crucial vote as Le Pen has fallen behind centrist Emmanuel Macron in recent polls.
The fatal attack on a police officer in Paris overnight caused investors some immediate jitters, with the gap between French and German 10-year borrowing costs rising sharply in the first few minutes of trading. Traders said this was on concern the attack could sway the vote in favor of Marine Le Pen. But that move reversed as the session wore on, with the yield on 10-year French government debt hitting its weakest since mid-January and the gap between it and its German equivalent falling to its tightest in three weeks. The stated reason for the move back was that the market assumed any gains for Le Pen would come at the expense of Melenchon.