European stocks rise after Fed, French presidential debate


European stock markets rose Thursday as French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron was seen winning a crunch election debate ahead of Sunday's run-off vote.

Traders were also eyeing US monetary policy after the Federal Reserve left open the possibility of hiking interest rates next month despite slow growth in the world's top economy.

The French market outperformed its European counterparts, with the Paris CAC 40 fizzing 1.0 percent higher as traders digested Wednesday night's debate between Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen (Other OTC: PENC - news) .

Frankfurt's DAX 30 climbed 0.8 percent and London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was 0.2 percent higher in afternoon trading, as markets also reacted to a clutch of European earnings updates.

"European assets are in high demand... with the euro moving back above $1.09 and the DAX at an all-time high, as Emmanuel Macron was deemed to have trounced his rival in last night's debate," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG (Frankfurt: A0EARV - news) traders.

Centrist Macron and Le Pen clashed over terrorism, the economy and Europe in a bad-tempered TV debate that laid bare their profoundly different visions for the country.

The duel ahead of Sunday's election was billed as a confrontation between Macron's call for openness and pro-market reforms and Le Pen's France-first nationalism.

In foreign exchange markets, the dollar fell back against the euro following the debate and after gains for the US currency Wednesday when the Federal Reserve opened the door for another US interest rate hike.

Asian stock markets mostly turned lower in a holiday-filled week.

On the corporate front Thursday, shares in HSBC jumped 3.4 percent to 667 pence, topping the FTSE 100, after the banking titan posted a rise in pre-tax profits, excluding one-off charges.

Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: 0LN9.L - news) was also a strong riser, winning around 1.1 percent after the energy group reported a surge in first-quarter net profits thanks to rebounding oil prices.

In Frankfurt, Adidas (IOB: 0OLD.IL - news) jumped 1.1 percent, as the German sporting goods maker voiced confidence over meeting its objectives for the year, after a huge leap in quarterly profits.

Focus is turning also to the release Friday of the US government's jobs creation data for April and statements from Fed boss Janet Yellen as well as other top bank officials, which could provide some forward guidance to markets.

"The Federal Reserve remains on track to deliver two more interest rate hikes this year as it focuses on the steady decline in the unemployment rate, rather than fluctuations in (economic) growth," said Richard Jerram, chief economist at Bank of Singapore.

Wall Street opened higher Thursday, with the Dow edging up 0.1 percent, as data showing new claims for jobless benefits sank at the end of April and the total number of people receiving unemployment benefits hit a 17-year low.

Despite the positive spin from the Fed, Asian equities mostly struggled Thursday in a week that has seen several markets closed for public holidays.

Sydney sank 0.3 percent on a drop in iron and copper prices.

BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL - news) shares ended flat, reversing early losses that came after Australia blocked a plan by one of the mining giant's top shareholders to move its primary listing to London.

Seoul's KOSPI stocks index however closed up one percent at a record high thanks to a pick-up in foreigners entering the South Korean market and improving corporate results.

- Key figures around 1330 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,245.59 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.8 percent at 12,625.82

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.0 percent at 5,355.43

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.8 percent at 3,616.18

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 20,981.93

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 24,683.88 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,127.37 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0926 from $1.0887 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2898 from $1.2873

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.94 yen from 112.67 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN $1.02 at $49.77 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $1.20 at $46.62


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