A man is reflected on an electronic stock indicator of a securities firm in Tokyo, Thursday, April 20, 2017. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Thursday after crude oil prices rebounded from an overnight sell-off and Japan reported stronger-than-expected exports in March. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

French shares outperform as polls show narrow Macron lead

April 20, 2017 - 7:58 am

LONDON (AP) — France's main stock market outperformed its counterparts in Europe on Thursday as traders priced in a growing likelihood of a victory by centrist Emmanuel Macron in the upcoming presidential election.

KEEPING SCORE: Paris' CAC 40 was up 0.8 percent at 5,042, while Germany's DAX was unchanged at 12,015. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was similarly steady at 7,113. U.S. futures pointed to a solid opening on Wall Street with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures both up 0.3 percent.

FRANCE ELECTION: In the run-up to Sunday's first round vote in France, opinion polls are showing Macron in the lead, following by National Front leader Marie Le Pen. In any runoff between the two on May 7. Macron is expected to easily lead the populist Le Pen. However, all polls show that the other two leading candidates, the center-right Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Melenchon from the left of the French political spectrum, remain in contention too.

ANALYST TAKE: "The most likely scenario still appears to be Macron and Le Pen in the second round, but there are plenty of undecided French voters who could make a difference and the vote looks as uncertain as it ever has," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG.

OIL REVERSE: Oil prices recouped some of the previous day's hefty losses amid speculation that the OPEC oil cartel will extend its recent production cuts. On Wednesday, oil prices tanked by nearly 4 percent following the revelation of a surprise buildup in U.S. gasoline stockpiles. On Thursday, Benchmark U.S. crude was up 50 cents at $51.35 a barrel while Brent crude, the international standard, rose 52 cents to $53.45 a barrel.

NORTH KOREA FACTOR: President Donald Trump's recent statement that the U.S. wants peace followed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley's message to North Korea on Wednesday that, "We're not trying to pick a fight" appeared to help take the edge off of recent worries over brewing tensions between Pyongyang and Washington.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 index was unchanged at 18,430.49 and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.5 percent to 2,149.15. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.9 percent to 24,029.53 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.3 percent to 5,821.40. The Shanghai Composite index edged less than 0.1 percent higher to 3,172.10 and Southeast Asian benchmarks were higher.

CURRENCIES: The euro was up 0.3 percent at $1.0747 while the dollar rose 0.2 percent to 109.08 yen.

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