April 20, 2017 / 7:23 AM / 4 months ago

Daily Briefing: Trump the focus of spring finance talks

U.S. President Donald Trump walks from Marine One as he returns from a day trip to Wisconsin on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2017.Joshua Roberts

LONDON (Reuters) - The most important conversations about Europe's economy today are happening in Washington, as world finance leaders gather there for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The avowed aim of many euro zone finance officials will be to try and deflect U.S. President Donald Trump's still-evolving policies away from a protectionism they fear can only harm prospects for jobs and growth in their national economies.

Trump's camp may however simply choose to ignore their lobbying - the United States already insisted last month that an anti-protectionism pledge be dropped from a Group of 20 communique issued in Baden-Baden, Germany.

Closer to home, British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn launches his Labour Party's national election campaign today with a call to defeat the "cosy cartel" that protects the interests of the wealthy to the detriment of ordinary Britons.

That theme speaks to evidence that many of Labour's social and economic policies resonate with voters in a way that Corbyn as a leader does not - while its policy on Brexit is for many almost indistinguishable from that of PM Theresa May. The latest YouGov poll released overnight nonetheless continues to suggest a resounding win for May in the snap June 8 vote: her Conservative Party leads with 48 percent, with Labour on just 24 percent.

In Europe's other big election, the 11 candidates in France's presidential race take part in a television special tonight. That replaces a head-to-head debate which was abandoned when the candidates failed to agree on the timeframe.

Three days before the first round of voting, this could be one of the last opportunities for the candidates to influence the outcome. Latest polling shows independent Emmanuel Macron stretching his lead out slightly to three points ahead of the FN's Marine Le Pen - still within the margin of error.

MARKETS AT 0755 GMT

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde attends The Bretton Woods Committee annual meeting at IMF headquarters in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017.Yuri Gripas

As various strands of the global reflation trade unwind, perhaps the most important one is oil. Fresh evidence of oversupply there sent Brent crude plummeting more than 3 percent to dip briefly under $53 late on Wednesday - its lowest in about three weeks. Although Brent has clawed back the $53 handle this morning, this big reversal of recent crude gains underlines the pullback in U.S. bond yields and will be a key factor for central banks assessing their next course of action over the coming months.

While the Fed’s latest Beige Book assessment of the U.S. economy last night was fairly upbeat, ECB officials including board member Coeure and chief economist Praet were yesterday at pains to stress the euro zone central bank was not considering any tightening of policy at this point. Unusually against that backdrop, German short-term bund yields popped higher on speculation the ECB might do something to ease a collateral squeeze in money markets.

World President Jim Yong Kim participates in a discussion "Investing in the Early Years: Identifying Synergies and Catalyzing Action" at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2017.Yuri Gripas

But if the Fed is looking at both incoming data and the latest updates from the Q1 earnings season, it may be inclined to back off any thoughts of another rate hike in June too.

IBM’s big miss on Wednesday sent its stock price down almost 5 percent, following on from misses from Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson earlier in the week and offsetting more impressive readings from some big banks including JPMorganMorgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Futures markets now have the chances of a June rate hike at about 50-50.

G20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs gather in Washington later for a working dinner ahead of tomorrow’s full-blown meeting on the sidelines of the IMF’s Spring meeting.

Any review or changes to their Baden-Baden statement on trade and currencies will be watched closely, but the overall tone of monetary policy on the sidelines may well be most sensitive. BoE chief Mark Carney speaks separately later in DC. So after a 0.2 percent drop in the S&P500 last night, it was a mixed session in Asia with little overall direction given the plethora of political and economic uncertainties currently unresolved.

The dollar index is 0.2 pct lower, with euro/dollar now comfortably above $1.07 going into the weekend French elections and the 10-year French/German debt spreads steady at about 67 basis points. European stocks are expected to open lower, even though decent incoming earnings report buoyed euro indices on Wednesday.

The FTSE and sterling unperformed as investors assess the next six weeks of a UK election campaign.

editing by John Stonestreet

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