Euro jumps to 5-month high on French election relief, Dow futures soar nearly 200 points

As Emanuel Macron comes out on top after the first round of voting in France, the euro hits a five month high on relief that another Brexit-like shock looks unlikely.
The German Central Bank (Bundesbank) presents the new 50 euro banknote at its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 16, 2017.
The German Central Bank (Bundesbank) presents the new 50 euro banknote at its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 16, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The euro vaulted to five-month peaks in choppy Asian trading on Monday (April 24) after the market's favoured candidate won through the first round of the French election, sparking a mass unwinding of safe-haven trades.

US stock futures opened sharply higher on Sunday, with Dow futures soaring nearly 200 points as early results from the French election showed centris Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen advancing to a presidential runoff on May 7.

The outcome lessens the risk of an anti-establishment shock on the scale of Britain's vote to quit the European Union with Macron widely tipped to win the final vote and keep France in the union.

Investors had feared for the single currency's future if one of the far-left candidates had gotten through to fight Le Pen, and the euro jumped in relief. It was last up 1.5 per cent at US$1.0880, having been as far as US$1.0940, the highest since early November.

The safe-haven yen was dumped across the board with the euro surging 2.6 per cent to 120.03 yen while the US dollar gained 1.2 per cent to 110.34 yen.

"We expect Macron to win the second round and to become the next French president, on the basis that the candidate closest to the centre of the political spectrum has the best chance to win," said analysts at Citi in a note. "Given Macron's pro-EU platform, the outlook for Europe ought to be strengthened."

Indeed, opinion polls were putting Macron ahead by over 20 points, a lead so large that a repeat of the Brexit surprise seemed highly unlikely.

Citi cautioned against chasing the euro much above US$1.0900.

"The results are EUR positive, but with the ECB on Thursday, as well as still uncertainty into Round Two, we would emphasize these results are in-line with expectations, not exceeding them," they wrote.

Dealers assumed equities globally would get a relief bounce from the French result, while sovereign bonds could run into profit taking. Likewise, gold fell 1 per cent to US$1,270.83 an ounce.

Wall Street on Friday had only a modest lift from news President Donald Trump would announce the broad outline of his proposed tax package on Wednesday.

"Markets are sceptical that the real details will be forthcoming," said analysts at ANZ in a note. "There is also plenty of conjecture about whether any tax cuts will be able to be revenue neutral, and that could affect their ease of passage through Congress."

The Dow ended Friday down a minor 0.15 per cent, while the S&P 500 lost 0.30 per cent and the Nasdaq fell 0.11 per cent.

Investors were also keeping a wary eye on tensions in the Korean peninsular.

North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension as Trump prepared to call the leaders of China and Japan.

Oil prices recouped just a little of last week's hefty losses, still weighed by signs US production and inventory growth were offsetting Opec's attempts to reduce the global crude glut.

Brent futures were up 21 cents at US$52.17 a barrel, while US crude futures added 18 cents to US$49.80.