Banks boost FTSE as French election ignites risk-on rally

By Kit Rees and Helen Reid
A man walks past the London Stock Exchange in the City of London October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

By Kit Rees and Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top share index jumped on Monday as banking stocks surged after centrist Emmanuel Macron came out on top in the first round of France's presidential election.

The blue chip FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index closed 2.1 percent higher at to 7,246.68 points, its biggest one-day jump since early September 2016 and outpacing the mid caps <.FTMC> which closed up 1.3 percent at a new record closing level.

Macron won the first round of voting, qualifying for a run-off alongside protectionist, eurosceptic Marine Le Pen. Polls pointed to Macron easily beating Le Pen in the run-off on May 7, calming market fears in light of the UK's Brexit vote and Donald's Trump's election in the United States.

"It's the pro-growth backdrop that we're now starting to see come through rather than ... ongoing austerity which is providing quite a significant shift with the outlook for the European banks, in particular with the French banks very much leading the way, which of course sees their UK-listed counterparts rally quite significantly today as well," Charles Hanover Investments partner, Dafydd Davies, said.

UK banks <.FTNMX8350> jumped 3.1 percent, joining in with a broader risk-on rally among European lenders <.SX7P>, which surged 4.8 percent. Shares in Barclays rose 5.4 percent, while Standard Chartered was up 4.8 percent and Royal Bank of Scotland gained 2.8 percent.

Macron still needs to clinch the presidency and win a stable majority in legislative elections in June.

"The reforms Mr Macron is proposing are positive but the question is whether he will have the parliamentary legitimacy to implement these," Barclays European economist, Francois Cabau, said.

"How much of it supports growth over the long term is still very much a question to which we won't have the answer until the 18th of June, and potentially afterwards."

Among individual stock movers, energy provider Centrica was the biggest FTSE faller, down 3.5 percent, while sector peer SSE dropped 1.9 percent after Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party vowed to cap domestic prices if it retains power in an election in June.

Precious metals miner Randgold Resources was among a handful of stocks in negative territory, down 1.4 percent as investors rotated out of more defensive safe-haven stocks.

Blue chips aside, shares in Kennedy Wilson Europe Real Estate (KWE) jumped 14.1 percent after U.S. parent company Kennedy Wilson said it would buy back KWE in an all-share transaction with a combined enterprise value of $8.2 billion.

Computacenter gained 7.6 percent after an upbeat outlook.

Small-cap shoe retailer Jimmy Choo gained 9.9 percent after it put itself up for sale.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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