Asia stocks stutter, euro gains after first round vote in France

Asia stocks stutter, euro gains after first round vote in France

By Ankur Banerjee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks were subdued on Monday as traders pondered the U.S rates outlook, while the euro edged higher after the far-right won a smaller share of the vote in the first round of France’s shock snap election than some polls had projected.

The euro was 0.32% higher at $1.0747, while European stock futures rose 1% as exit polls showed Marine Le Pen’s eurosceptic National Rally emerged ahead in the first round of the French vote but with fewer votes than some analysts had forecast.

The shock vote has unsettled markets as the far-right, as well as the left-wing alliance that came second on Sunday, have pledged big spending increases at a time when France’s high budget deficit has prompted the EU to recommend disciplinary steps.

“Perhaps the result isn’t as bad as the market had feared,” Michael Brown, senior strategist at Pepperstone.

“We’ve also seen a lot of rhetoric form other parties looking to perhaps pull out candidates to try and avoid the National Rally winning seats in the runoff next Sunday … The market may be taking a little bit of solace in that.”

The focus now shifts to next Sunday’s runoff and will depend on how parties decide to join forces in each of the country’s 577 constituencies for the second round, leaving investors still uncertain and jittery.

“With this result, markets are looking into another week of really high uncertainty. Probably fear, as it is still possible for RN to gain an absolute majority next week,” said Carsten Brzeski, global head of macro at ING in Frankfurt.
In Asia, the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.18% lower, to kick off the second half of the year having risen 7% so far in 2024. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.57%.

Meanwhile, China’s manufacturing activity fell for a second month in June while services activity slipped to a five-month low, an official survey showed on Sunday, keeping alive calls for further stimulus as the economy struggles to get back on its feet.

On the macro side, the spotlight remains on if and when the Federal Reserve will start cutting rates in the wake of data on Friday showing U.S. monthly inflation was unchanged in May.

In the 12 months through May, the PCE price index increased 2.6% after advancing 2.7% in April. Last month’s inflation readings were in line with economists’ expectations. They remain above the Fed’s 2% target for inflation.

Still, markets are clinging to expectations of at least two rate cuts from the Fed this year with a cut in September pegged in at 63% probability, CME FedWatch tool showed.

U.S. stocks on Friday ended lower after an early rally fizzled. [.N]

Among currencies, the yen traded around 160.98 per dollar after the government, in a rare unscheduled revision to gross domestic product (GDP) data on Monday, said Japan’s economy shrank more than initially reported in the first quarter.

Data also showed Japan’s factory activity stayed unchanged in June amid lacklustre demand and as companies struggled with rising costs due to the weak yen.
The dollar index, which measures the U.S. unit against six rivals, was last a touch lower at 105.65.

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