Global stocks eked out small gains in a choppy trading session on Thursday, as investors resisted placing any risky bets ahead of the first round of the French presidential election over the weekend. Oil prices, which fell heavily in the previous session on supply news, rebounded to regain some of their losses.
French stocks were in positive territory, performing better than broader European equities, as gains from Publicis Groupe and Pernod Ricard helped relieve pressure from concerns over the outcome of Sunday’s presidential election vote. In Paris, the CAC 40 moved up 1.47%, which was miles better than the 0.23% gain of the Stoxx Europe 600 which has been fluctuating between small gains and losses.
Wall Street was higher on Thursday, helped by increased optimism around the first-quarter earnings season and a falling dollar and treasuries. But mounting tensions between North Korea and the United States, and the looming French presidential election precluded investors from making risky trades.
Food in demand, Sky less so
Shares in Unilever traded in the green on Thursday after the Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream maker reported a rise in underlying sales for the first quarter. This news was enough to send Unilever shares up 0.52%.
Meanwhile, Kit-Kat chocolate maker Nestlé reported a largely flat first quarter in revenue when compared to a year earlier. Nonetheless, shares were in the green, trading 0.4% higher.
Elsewhere, shares in broadcast giant Sky reported earnings that were a little less cheerful. The company was hit by an 11% drop in adjusted operating profit in the first nine months of its fiscal year. Sky laid part of the blame for this on additional costs for English Premier League direct transmissions and a weaker advertising market. Its shares were marginally lower, but staged a rebound later in the session to close in positive territory.
British pound rebounds
After being shunned for 10 months after the UK’s Brexit vote, the pound is back in favour with investors. The UK currency made the biggest leap in value in three months on Thursday and rallied to its highest level since October after Prime Minister Theresa May unexpectedly announced she intends to hold a general election in June – three years before they were due.
Surprise political announcements like that tend to spark a lot of uncertainty and pull the country’s currency lower as a consequence. But for the pound, it was the exact opposite. The snap general election could actually provide more clarity on the Brexit plan from Westminster and potentially make the sterling more attractive, according to analysts.
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