European, US Stocks In Eerie Calm As French Vote Looms


The murder of a policeman on the Champs-Elysees also forced an early end to campaigning ahead of Sunday’s vote in France. Investors are bracing for a period of uncertainty until a victor emerges on May 7.


“The need to hedge the downside risks on the euro without capping the upside potential, has mostly pushed investors toward the currency options through the week,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a market analyst at London Capital Group  wrote in a note. Heightened stock volatility has been spurred by investors’ need to protect against political risk into and following the first round, she said.


Despite Friday's seeming calm, in recent weeks European stock volatility has seen a pick up, rising to the highest level since Brexit last summer.



Away from the French elections, Europe had something to cheer about with a slew of upbeat PMI reports this morning suggesting a pick up in the economy across the Eurozone. According to Markit, Eurozone PMI hit a 6 year high in April, suggesting the reflation trade is alive and well in Europe, which continues to shrug off any political uncertainties, and continues to be a headache for Mario Draghi who needs some justification to keep extra easy monetary conditions.



There was some less attractive data out of the UK, where the big data release was the March UK retail sales release, which posted the worst Q1 data since 2010, although there was little follow through in GBP selling as Cable buyers stood resolute ahead of 1.2750 and EUR/GBP buyers will find little reprieve ahead of the French elections this weekend.


Futures on the S&P 500 rose 0.1 percent as of 6:20 a.m. in New York. The cash index rose 0.8 percent Thursday, with American Express surging nearly 6 percent to pace gains in the financial group after its results topped estimates. European stocks were little changed, with the STOXX 600 index up 0.01% at 6:40am ET.


"So far markets have been pretty sanguine in the face of the (French) presidential election, which was flagged as one of the potential banana skins for markets in this year and I think that may be partly a result of political fatigue," said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Laith Khalaf, in London. But options markets suggested investors remain worried about strong results for Le Pen and/or hard-left challenger anti-EU Jean-Luc Melenchon that would point to the risk of another major political shock for Europe in two weeks time.


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