In European Equity Markets French blue-chip stocks underperformed other European benchmark indexes on Friday as investors retreated from risky bets ahead of the too-close-to-call first round of France’s presidential election. The CAC fell 0.4 percent, while the pan-European STOXX index added 0.1 percent. On the week they were down slightly but both indexes are less than 2 percent below their highest level this year hit last week. Among French standout movers, Danone was the biggest faller on the CAC 40, down 2.5 percent after reporting first-quarter sales figures. French banks Societe Generale and BNP Paribas extended the previous session’s gains, rising 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.
In Currency Markets the euro edged lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday as investors braced for Sunday’s first round of a tight French presidential election. The euro was down 0.2 percent against the dollar at $1.0693, close to the session’s low. While the risk of a knee-jerk move one way or the other remained high, the euro was still on pace for its best week in 11 against the dollar. Against the yen, the greenback was down 0.33 percent at 108.95 yen. Other major currency pairs were stuck in tight ranges, with Britain’s weakest quarterly retail sales number in five years doing minimal damage to sterling after a 4 percent gain earlier this week. Sterling was down 0.2 percent at $1.2782.
In Commodities Markets oil prices fell on Friday, on track for the biggest weekly drop in a month on renewed concerns that increasing U.S. production and high inventories will thwart OPEC’s attempts to reduce the global crude glut. U.S. crude futures fell below $50 a barrel for the first time in two weeks, with volumes picking up in an active session that by late morning already showed more than 400,000 front-month contracts changing hands. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, key members of the OPEC, favor extending their production-limiting deal with non-member producers into the second half of the year. U.S. crude futures were at $49.68 a barrel, down 2 percent, or $1.03, on course for the biggest weekly decline since the week ended March 10.
In US Equity Markets stocks slipped in late morning trading on Friday as investors held off from making risky bets ahead of the first round of the closely contested French presidential election. Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the telecommunications index’s 0.89 percent fall leading the decliners. Shares of General Electric fell 1.1 percent to $29.94 after the company reported negative cash flow from its industrial operations in the first quarter. Mattel fell as much as 11.3 percent to an 18-month low of $22.35 after the toymaker reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss. The S&P 500 was down 0.27 percent, at 2,349.43 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.2 percent, at 5,904.88.
In Bond Markets U.S. Treasury prices gained slightly on Friday ahead of Sunday’s presidential election in France, with no major U.S. economic releases due to set market direction. Benchmark 10-year note yields have held in a tight range since falling to five-month lows on Tuesday, as investors await a catalyst to determine if bonds will continue their rally. Bonds prices have been boosted in recent weeks by reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates two more times this year, following disappointing economic data releases.