French stocks lead gains on Macron hopes; upbeat earnings lift broader Europe
By Anisha Sircar and Susan Mathew
(Reuters) -Strong earnings lifted European shares to two-month highs on Thursday, while French shares outperformed as President Emmanuel Macron maintained his lead in polls ahead of Sunday’s election runoff with far-right rival Marine Le Pen.
France’s CAC 40 hit three-week highs during the session before closing up 1.4%, cheered by Macron’s combative performance in a head-to-head debate after which an Elabe poll for BFM TV showed viewers found him more convincing to be president.
“(If Macron wins) there are likely to be few market implications. He is seen as the continuity candidate and has been expected to win for some time now,” said Dean Turner, chief euro zone and UK economist at UBS Global Wealth Management’s chief investment office.
“A Macron victory could see a modest bounce for French assets and the single currency … A win for Le Pen could see something larger … Her room for manoeuvre is likely to be limited domestically, so EU policy will be the key concern.”
The broader STOXX 600 index closed up 0.3%, with Nestle and ABB among the biggest boosts after upbeat earnings, while Louis Vuitton-owner LVMH rose 1.7% after top boss Bernard Arnault, said the company’s outlook this year was “so far so good”.
Capping the gains were miners, dropping 2.3% as Anglo American slumped 8.8% after its first-quarter production fell 10% year-on-year and lowered its full-year forecast.
“Stocks are higher and confidence in European markets has broadly been moving up … despite higher yields, the war in Ukraine, and speculation about higher interest rates,” said David Madden, market analyst at Equiti Capital.
The STOXX 600 is on track to end the week about 0.5% higher and erase last week’s losses of 0.3%, with banks gaining the most on the week following expectations of a looming interest rate hike from the European Central Bank (ECB).
ECB vice president Luis de Guindos said the central bank should end its asset purchase programme in July and could raise rates that same month, in September or later, according to an interview.
Money markets are now pricing in a 20 basis point rise by July and more than 70 basis points of cumulative increases by the end of 2022. [FRX/] [IRPR]
In other earnings updates, Akzo Nobel advanced 6.6% on strong earnings helped by higher pricing, while Italy’s Saipem leaped 11.8% after its adjusted core earnings rose 65% in the first quarter to beat expectations.
Metso Outotec topped the STOXX 600 with its 11.4% jump after the Finnish engineering group posted higher Q1 orders.
(Reporting by Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Alison Williams)