Currencies

Euro holds after pro-Europe parties retain majority in election

Key Points
  • Pro-EU parties fragmented, but still in majority.
  • Euro off 2-year low, sterling rises slightly.
  • Yen slips, Trump sees Japan trade deal after July vote.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

The euro struggled to hold on to $1.12 on Monday as investor relief at limited gains for euroskeptic parties in European parliamentary elections was offset by declines in the share of seats held by the biggest blocs.

While centre-right and centre-left blocs lost their shared majority, surges by the Greens and liberals meant parties committed to strengthening the union held on to two-thirds of seats, official projections showed.

The single currency initially rallied to as high as $1.1215, near its highest in 1-1/2 weeks, and off a two-year low of $1.11055 touched on Thursday. 

But by 0820 GMT it was down 0.1% at $1.1192. 

"If anything, it was positive that the populists didn't gain more than they did," said Christin Tuxen, an FX analyst at Danske Bank. The reduced vote share for the biggest centrist parties went "in the other direction", however.

The results dented the hopes of anti-immigration, anti-Brussels National Rally led by Marine Le Pen, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and others who have been opposing attempts to forge closer EU integration.

Tuxen said the election, normally of limited interest to global markets, was the first of a series of meaningful political events in Europe this year, although monetary policy still mattered more given signs of slowing economic momentum.

FX investors are focused on how the U.S. Federal Reserve will react to a worsening economic outlook.

"What is really going on in the FX market, is we are waiting to hear if there will be a Fed reaction to the deteriorating cyclical outlook," Tuxen said, pointing to rising expectations of a U.S. rate cut this year.

Trading was set to be subdued on Monday due to market holidays in London and New York, limiting moves in other currency pairs. The dollar index rose 0.1% to 97.706.

The U.S. currency traded at 109.53 , up 0.2% and underpinned by bargain-hunting by Japanese investors. The dollar is not far from a three-month low of 109.02 touched two weeks ago amid escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and technology.

The dollar has been also capped against the yen as U.S. President Donald Trump is seen putting pressure on Japan to take measures to reduce its trade surplus with the United States. Trump, who arrived in Tokyo on Saturday, tweeted on Sunday that much of the trade negotiation would wait until after Japan's election in July.

The pound rose marginally to $1.2718, having regained some ground from 4-1/2 month lows after Prime Minister Theresa May set out a date for her departure. The prospect of a "no-deal" Brexit is fast becoming the defining issue of the race to succeed her.

"Sentiment towards the pound is still negative," said Marshall Gittler, an analyst at ACLS Global, citing option market data that signalled people were buying insurance against a further fall in the pound and positioning data showing a big increase in short positions against it.