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The initial "official estimate" of the French presidential election--released 20.00 CET--suggest that the runoff will be between the centre-right Emmanuel Macron and Front National's Marine Le Pen. This is consistent with opinion polls. The average of five early estimates also suggests that Mr. Macron won the vote with 23.1% of the vote against Mrs. Le Pen's 22.5%.
Early results suggest that Mr. Macron has comfortably beat Marine Le Pen to become French president, defying a leak of emails and other documents from his En Marche campaign over the weekend. The final results won't be published until Monday morning, but the initial estimate indicates that Mr. Macron will edge Ms. Le Pen by 65.1% to 34.9%.
This weekend's first round of the French presidential election is too close to call. Our first chart indicates that a runoff between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron remains the best bet. But the statistical uncertainty inherent in the predictions, and the proximity of the two remaining candidates--the centre-right Mr. Fillon and far-left Mr. Melenchon-- mean that this is now effectively a four-horse race.
The presumption in markets is that the French presidential election is the last hurdle to be overcome in the EZ economy. As long as Marine Le Pen is kept out of l'Élysée, animal spirits will be released in the economy and financial markets. We concede that a Le Pen victory would result in chaos, at least in the short run. Bond spreads would widen, equities would crash and the euro would plummet. But we also suspect that such volatility would be short-lived, similar to the convulsions after Brexit.
This weekend will bring closure to an extraordinary presidential election campaign in France. The polls correctly predicted the first result, and assuming they are right in the second round too, Mr. Macron will comfortably beat Ms. Le Pen.
This remains a tumultuous time for EZ bond investors. The twists and turns of the French presidential election campaign continue to shove markets around. Marine Le Pen's steady rise in thepolls has pushed French yields higher this year.
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen with the latest on the French Election
Yesterday's advance data from Germany and Spain suggest that today's Eurozone inflation report will undershoot the consensus. In Germany, headline inflation slipped to 1.6% in March from 2.2% in February, and in Spain the headline rate plunged to 2.3% from 3.0%.
Leading indicators for consumers' spending in France are sending conflicting signals. Survey data suggest that households are in a spendthrift mood. Data yesterday showed that the headline consumer sentiment index was unchanged in March at 100, the cycle high.
The Prime Minister will invoke Article 50 today, marking the end of the beginning of the U.K.'s departure from the EU. The move likely will not move markets, as it has been all but certain since MPs backed the Government's European Union Bill on February 1.
It's always dangerous when risk assets rally strongly into an ECB meeting, but we doubt that investors have much to fear from today's session in Frankfurt. We think the central bank will leave its main refinancing and deposit rates at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively.
On a headline level, last week's European Parliament elections were an excellent occasion for the EU.
The outlook for French consumers' spending improved this month, at the margin. The headline consumer sentiment index was unchanged at 98 in November, but most forward-looking indicators rose. Consumers' spending in was flat in Q2 and Q3, following a 1.1% jump in the first quarter.
Yesterday's EZ PMI data surprised to the downside. The composite PMI in the euro area dipped to 52.9 in August, from 53.2 in July, below the initial estimate 53.3. The headline was marred by weakness in the German services PMI, which crashed to a 40-month low of 51.7, from 54.4 in July.
The slew of EZ economic data on Friday supports our view that the economy ended 2016. The Commission's economic sentiment index jumped to 107.8 in December from a revised 106.6 in November. The headline strength was due to a big increase in "business climate indicator" and higher consumer sentiment. In individual countries, solid numbers for German construction and French services sentiment were the stand-out details.
We predict no major policy changes at the ECB today. We think the central bank will leave its main refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.4%, respectively. We also expect the ECB will leave the pace of QE unchanged at €60 per month until December 2017, at least.
The twists and turns of the French presidential election campaign continue. François Fillon was tipped as favourite after he won the Republican primaries. But Mr. Fillon now is struggling to keep his campaign on track after allegations that he gave high paying "pro-forma" jobs to his wife as an assistant last year. The socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, has been hampered by the unpopularity of his party's incumbent, François Hollande, and has lost ground to the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The trend of consensus-beating EZ economic data was brought to a halt yesterday. The IFO business climate index in Germany slipped to a five-month low of 109.8 in January, from 111.0 in December, mainly due to a fall in the expectations index. But we are not alarmed. The dip in the headline comes after a run of strong data, and the IFO remains consistent with GDP growth of about 1.6% year-over-year.
If 2017 really is the year of "reflation", somebody forgot to tell the gilt market. Among the G7 group, 10-year yields have fallen only in the U.K. during the last three months, as our first chart shows.
Political risks have been making an unwelcome comeback in the Eurozone in the past month. In Germany, last month's parliamentary elections--see here--has left Mrs. Merkel with a tricky coalition- building exercise.
Yesterday's advance CPI report in the Eurozone showed that inflation pressures are rising rapidly. Inflation rose to 1.1% year-over-year in December, from 0.6% in November. Surging energy inflation was the key driver, and this component likely will continue to rise in the next few months. Core inflation, however, stayed subdued, rising only slightly to 0.9%, from 0.8% in November.
The odds of a hike this month have increased in recent days, though the chance probably is not as high as the 82% implied by the fed funds future. The arguments against a March hike are that GDP growth seems likely to be very sluggish in Q1, following a sub-2% Q4, and that a hike this month would be seen as a political act.
The euro area economy continues to defy rising political uncertainty. Data yesterday showed that industrial production, ex-construction, in the Eurozone jumped 1.5% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to 3.2% from a revised 0.8% in October. Output rose in all the major economies, but the headline was flattered by a 16.3% month-to-month leap in Ireland. This was due to a production jump in Ireland's "modern sector" which includes the country's large multinational technology sector.
All eyes in the Eurozone will be on the second estimate of Q4 GDP today, and the report likely will confirm that growth accelerated in Q4. We think real GDP rose 0.5% quarter-on-quarter, up from a 0.3% increase in Q3, in line with the first estimate. If this forecast is correct, the year-over-year rate will be unchanged at 1.8%. Risks to the headline, however, are tilted to the downside.
French manufacturing cooled at the end of 2016. Industrial production slipped 0.9% month-to-month in December, partially reversing an upwardly revised 2.4% jump in November. The main hits came from declines in oil refining and manufacturing of cars and other transport equipment.
The euro's spectacular rise against the pound has been the key story in European FX markets recently. But the trade-weighted euro, however, is up "only" 6% year-to-date, as a result of the relatively stable EURUSD.
The ECB made no major policy changes yesterday. The central bank kept its refinancing and deposit rates unchanged at 0.00% and -0.4% respectively, and the scheduled reduction in the pace of QE to €60B per month was confirmed. The core part of the central bank's language retained its dovish bias.
Another day, another solid economic report in the Eurozone. Data yesterday showed that industrial production in France jumped 2.2% month-to-month in November, pushing the year-over-year rate up to +1.8%, from -1.8% in October. The 2.3% jump in manufacturing output was the key story, offsetting a 0.3% decline in construction activity. Production of food and beverages rebounded from weakness in October, and oil refining also accelerated.
The PMIs are telling an increasingly upbeat story for the EZ economy in Q4. The composite PMI in the euro area rose to an 11-month high of 54.1 in November, from 53.3 in October. The uptick was driven by strong new business growth across all private sectors, and employment also increased in response to higher work backlogs.
Markets are becoming more sensitive to rumours about changes in ECB policy. The euro and yields jumped on Friday after a Bloomberg report that the central bank has discussed raising rates before QE ends.
The French presidential election campaign remains chaotic. Republican candidate François Fillon had to defend himself again yesterday as investigations into his potential misuse of public funds deepened. Mr. Fillon and his wife have now been summoned to court to explain themselves. Markets expected Mr. Fillon to resign as the Republican front-runner. Instead, he used his unscheduled media address to defiantly declare that he is staying in the race.
The performance of Italy's economy in the first half of 2017 proves that the strengthening euro area recovery is a tide lifting all the r egion's boats.
The German economy fired on all cylinders at the beginning of the year. Advance data on Friday showed that real GDP rose 0.6% quarter-on-quarter, accelerating from a 0.4% increase in Q4.
The winds of global politics are changing, and the major Eurozone countries could be forced to take heed. Donald Trump's foreign policy position remains highly uncertain. Our Chief Economist, Ian Shepherdson, expects the U.S. to increase defence spending next year; see the U.S. Monitor of October 20.
Centrist politicians and markets breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as the results of the Dutch parliamentary elections rolled in. The incumbent conservatives, led by PM Mark Rutte, lost ground but emerged as parliament's biggest party with 33 seats out of the total 150.
Net exports in the euro area likely rebounded in Q4. The headline EZ trade surplus rose to €22.7B in November from €19.7B in October. Exports jumped 3.3% month-to-month, primarily as a result of strong data in Germany and France, offsetting a 1.8% rise in imports. Over Q4 as a whole, we are confident that net exports gave a slight boost to eurozone GDP growth, adding 0.1 percentage points to quarter-on-quarter growth.
Markets are trading like Emmanuel Macron has already moved into the Élysée Palace. Eurozone equities soared at the open yesterday, lead by the French banks, 10-year yields in France plunged, and the euro jumped. This makes sense given the signal from the polls. They were correct in their prediction of Mr. Macron's victory on Sunday, and they have been consistently forecasting that he will comfortably beat Mrs. Le Pen in the runoff.
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