LONDON The Macron-Le Pen TV debate was a bad-tempered affair with Le Pen clearly intent on riling Macron with frequent interruptions, deliberate provocations and personal snipes at his age and background.
He just about managed to keep his cool but several times accused her of outright lying and treating the French public like idiots. It wasn't pretty to watch but, according to the Elabe poll issued directly afterwards, Macron was judged by 63 percent of respondents to be the most convincing. Whether that has much of an impact on overall polling remains to be seen.
A Buckingham Palace source says there is no cause for alarm about the welfare of Queen Elizabeth or her husband Prince Philip after all senior royal staff were summoned to a meeting at the palace, a well-placed source said. But it's still not clear why such a meeting was called. The queen, who celebrated her 91st birthday last month, and Philip, who turns 96 next month, still regularly carry out official duties although they have cut back on their workload.
ECB-watchers will be on alert for more clues to the Bank's evolving policy today with Mario Draghi in Lausanne, chief economist Peter Praet speaking at a conference in Brussels and board members Yves Mersch and Sabine Lautenschlaeger in Luxembourg and Frankfurt respectively.
Final services PMI data across the euro zone due this morning will likely confirm the increasingly robust picture of the region's economy; a separate French survey indicates manufacturers there are planning to raise investment by a decent 6 percent this year.
MARKETS AT 0655 GMT
With three days to go before the French presidential election runoff, the final televised debate appears to have gone in favour of the centrist Macron; snap polls conducted afterwards showed his 20 percentage point plus lead over far-right candidate Le Pen roughly where it has been for most of the campaign.
World markets have been assuming a Macron win since the first round and so there is only a little juice left in any relief rallies come Sunday evening. That said, European equity markets have been outperforming Wall St this week as the latter stumbled on Apple’s iPhone hiccup and signs last night that the Federal Reserve won’t be deflected from its gradual monetary tightening by what it sees as temporary factors in the poor first-quarter U.S. growth numbers out last week.
The Fed statement after its latest policy meeting encouraged futures markets to push the chances of a June rate rise back above 70 percent, up 10 percentage points from early Wednesday. The S&P500 ended down about 0.2 percent, the Vix implied volatility index popped briefly back above 11 percent, and Facebook shares fell after hours despite a decent earnings report.
Asia markets were much quieter, with Japan out for the Golden Week holiday. Chinese and HK stocks ended in the red, while Seoul outperformed by rising almost 1 percent.
The dollar was stronger across the board in early European trade in the meantime, with euro/dollar ticking back below $1.09. European stocks are set to push higher again, with HSBC marked higher after its earnings beat. Brent crude prices continue to slip, down to about $50.50.
Service sector business surveys top the data slate later, with eyes also on speeches from ECB chief Draghi and other senior ECB officials.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)