FOREX-Euro rises as French election jitters abate; dollar weak


* Gains for euro, sterling push dollar index lower
    * Commodity currencies steady

 (Updates with U.S. market open; changes dateline from LONDON)
    By Saqib Iqbal AhmedNEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - The euro rose to a three-week
high against the U.S. dollar on Thursday as some traders shut
down broad bets against the common currency ahead of the first
round of the French presidential elections on Sunday.
    The dollar remained weak against a basket of major
currencies as the latest data on domestic jobless claims and
business activity in the mid-Atlantic region did not change
traders' views of modest U.S. economic growth and low inflation.
    Traders were taking their cues from polls showing French
centrist Emmanuel Macron easily beating far-right candidate
Marine Le Pen in the second round two weeks later, analysts
    "Markets are banking on (Macron's) ability to drive the
country out of its misery," said Naeem Aslam, chief market
analyst for Think Markets in London.
    Pollsters forecast the most likely outcome of the first
round is that Macron will go head-to-head against Le Pen in the
May 7 second round. [nW8N1G800H]
    "We saw French yields come down a little bit," said Sireen
Harajli, currency strategist at Mizuho Corporate Bank in New
York. "I think it is signaling some comfort regarding the
upcoming election."
    The euro was up 0.52 percent against the dollar at $1.0765
after hitting a three-week high of $1.0777 earlier in the
    Harajli, however, warned that the outcome of the race was
still uncertain.
    The dollar index <.DXY>, which tracks the greenback against
a basket of six major rivals, has fallen in recent weeks on
weaker-than-expected economic data and worries about the Trump
administration's ability to get tax and fiscal legislation
    "It seems markets are expecting a slower pace of
policymaking this year, compared to what had been expected
earlier in the year," Harajli said.
    The greenback was also pressured this week by a resurgent
sterling after British Prime Minister Theresa May called an
early general election ahead of Brexit negotiations. Sterling
was up 0.49 percent at $1.284.
    The dollar index <.DXY> was down 0.25 percent at 99.489
after hitting a more than three-week low of 99.374 earlier in
the session.
    Meanwhile, commodity currencies, including the Aussie <AUD=>
and the New Zealand <NZD=> dollars recovered ground against the
greenback. Canada's dollar <CAD=> steadied after falling on
Wednesday amid weakness in commodity markets.
    Oil prices were largely flat on Thursday after steep losses
the previous session, with rising U.S. production weighing
against comments from leading Gulf oil producers that an
extension to supply cuts led by the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries was likely. [nL3N1HS19K]

Graphic: World FX rates in 2017
 (Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Gareth Jones
and Lisa Von Ahn)
 ((; @SaqibReports; +1 646 223
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This article appears in: Politics , Stocks , World Markets , Economy

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