European stocks declined while most Asian markets rose Friday ahead of the first round of voting in France’s closely watched presidential election.
KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France’s CAC-40 retreated 0.6 percent to 5,043.53 and London’s FTSE-100 shed just under 0.1 percent to 7,124.36. Germany’s DAX was little-changed at 12,023.01. On Wall Street, the future for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 0.1 percent while that for the Dow Jones industrial average was unchanged.
FRENCH ELECTIONS: French voters will choose among 11 candidates Sunday in the first round of a presidential election that has the country and financial markets on edge, especially after a shooting on Paris’ Champs-Elysees boulevard that killed a police officer and wounded three other people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Candidates include populists Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon, who both say they want to tear up agreements that bind together the 28 European Union nations. Citigroup said a victory by either could drive a 5 to 10 percent selloff of European equities. Other contenders seen as more supportive of EU membership include Francois Fillon, a conservative former prime minister, and Emmanuel Macron, a former banker and economy minister.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “With the French elections bearing down on markets the bulls seem to be wrestling back some control here and despite the prospect of real volatility on Monday, there is hope that all will be well,” said Chris Weston of IG in a report. “Having pared back expectations around the issue to a minimum, some have even bought into the idea that perhaps U.S. tax reform could be on the cards.”
U.S. TAXES: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking at an IMF event, said the Trump administration’s plan for tax changes will come “very soon.” Mnuchin’s goal of getting it passed by Congress’s August recess has slipped. He said the administration still hoped to get a measure through Congress well before the end of the year. Mnuchin is also working on proposals to overhaul regulations put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act passed after the 2008 financial crisis. He said he would have a report with recommendations for the president by June that would address major issues in changing the law.
ASIA’S DAY: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained just over 1 percent to 18,620.75 and Seoul’s Kospi added 0.7 percent to 2,165.04. The Shanghai Composite Index was little-changed at 3,173.15 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.6 percent to 5,854.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 24,042.02 and India’s Sensex retreated 0.3 percent to 29,315.79. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Southeast Asia also rose.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 7 cents to $50.64 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 14 cents on Thursday to close at $50.71. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 2 cents to $52.97. It rose 6 cents the previous session to $52.99.
CURRENCY: The dollar declined to 109.09 yen from Thursday’s 109.32 yen. The euro fell to $1.0701 from $1.0717.