The EU Markets Relief Rally

The first round in the French presidential election was held on the 23rd, with Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen coming out in front, winning 24% and 21.% of the votes respectively. Le Pen is a right-wing candidate from the National Front party who is opposed to the euro and France’s place in the European Union. On the opposite side, Macron, who is currently leading in the polls, is a former investment banker who left the socialist party to found a centrist political party, En Marche!, and supports gobalization and a stronger European economic union.

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European markets have seen some dramatic changes in the wake of this first electoral stage. Following Macron’s victory France’s CAC 40 index increased by more that 4%, reaching a nine year high. Germany’s DAX, an index consisting of the 30 major German companies, had climbed by 3.3% by the time the markets had closed, while the FTSE 100 in London rose to 7,264, recovering by 2.1% after a drop last week following the announcement of the UK general election.

The euro was also positively affected by the results, jumping a huge 1.5% to a value of $1.09. This increase has meant that the shares of European banks have risen to their highest level since December 2015. French bank, Credit Agricole, saw share prices rise by 10.86% while Barclays in the UK was up 5.4%. However, it is believed by many experts that the substantial increase in euro value, a five-and-a-half-month high against the dollar, may be no more than a one-day wonder, with currency analyst at MUFG Lee Hardman saying, “Now that the initial adjustment higher has taken place, we do not expect the French elections to have much further impact on the euro in the near-term.” While the euro had a good day sterling had its worst day against it since October last year, down 1.3% following the election results.

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The effects of the election have been felt outside of the EU as well. Asian markets are experiencing a second day of gains, having reacted quickly to the result of the weekend. The Japanese index Nikkei 225 was up 0.4% on the morning of the 24th, while the Kospi index had increased in value by 0.1%. Closer to home, all three main US share markets have increased more than 1%, with the Nasdaq index reaching a record high, having appreciated by 1.2%, when markets closed on Monday 24th.

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After the unexpected results of the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump it is unwise for people to take for granted the fact that Macron will win the second round of the election on the 7th May. Nonetheless, recent polls have shown that he is the firm favourite to win, a result which would guarantee France remains a member of the European Union.

Brexit – UK in Limbo, Part 2

Just over three weeks since the Brexit results and the UK remains in a political limbo. Financially-speaking, however, things are beginning to calm down. After the initial shock, the markets have quietened, with the FTSE100 even moving ahead of where it was before the referendum. It looks like Europe has survived the immediate, violent reaction and the focus now shifts to what continued uncertainty, and a withdrawal from the EU, will mean for the UK, and the rest of the world.

Biggest question next – EU budget

The next big economic issue surrounding Brexit is the question of the EU budget. The EU’s current budget stands at €960bn for the years 2016-2020. £47.5bn should come from the UK up until 2020, but since spending that money on UK institutions such as the NHS played a central role in the Leave campaign’s argument, it is unlikely that the next Prime Minister will agree to honour that commitment for another 3 years.

The UK certainly will not stop paying until the withdrawal agreements have all been discussed and decided, but sooner or later the UK will stop contributing, and then the question will be what can be done to fill that gap. One possibility is that the EU will expand its revenue sources, past the current sugar tax and customs duties, the other is that net contributors will agree to pay more and net receivers will agree to accept less. Either way, this decision will undoubtedly have an effect on the economies of the remaining member states.