Banks boost FTSE as French election ignites risk-on rally

By Kit Rees| LONDON

LONDON Britain’s top share index jumped on Monday as banking stocks surged after centrist Emmanuel Macron came out on top in the first round of France’s presidential election.

The blue chip FTSE 100 .FTSE index rose 1.9 percent to 7,246.34 points by 0857 GMT, on track for its biggest one-day jump since early December 2016 and outpacing the mid caps .FTMC which were up 0.9 percent at a fresh record high.

French centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron won the first round of voting, qualifying for a May 7 runoff alongside far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

This quelled market worries about a potential anti-establishment shock in light of the UK’s Brexit vote last June and Donald’s Trump’s election in the U.S.

“There’s the upside… and that’s a pro-European stance which Macron has campaigned on and that’s going to be something that also cheers the markets. It delivers some potential upside in terms of what it could mean for Europe going forward,” Dean Turner, economist at UBS Wealth Management, said.

UK banks .FTNMX8350 jumped 2.4 percent, joining in with a broader risk-on rally among European lenders .SX7P, which surged 4 percent. Shares in Barclays (BARC.L) rose nearly 5 percent, while Standard Chartered (STAN.L) was up 3.4 percent and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) gained 2.8 percent.

“It’s the pro-growth backdrop that we’re now starting to see come through rather than … ongoing austerity which is providing quite a significant shift with the outlook for the European banks, in particular with the French banks very much leading the way, which of course sees their UK-listed counterparts rally quite significantly today as well,” Dafydd Davies, partner at Charles Hanover Investments, said.

Shares in home improvement firm Kingfisher (KGF.L) were also among the biggest gainers, rising 3.7 percent.

In March, Kingfisher warned that the impact from the Brexit vote and potential disruption from the French election could hit trade in its two main markets. France accounted for 38 percent of Kingfisher’s sales in 2016.

Precious metals miners Randgold Resources (RRS.L) and Fresnillo (FRES.L) were among a handful of stocks in negative territory, falling 4 percent and 2.1 percent respectively as investors rotated out of more defensive safe-haven stocks.

Energy provider Centrica (CNA.L) was the biggest FTSE faller, down 5 percent, while peer SSE (SSE.L) also dropped 3.2 percent after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party vowed to cap domestic prices if it retains power in an election in June.

Outside of the blue chips, shares in Kennedy Wilson Real Estate (KWE.L) jumped 13.6 percent, while Computecenter (CCC.L) gained 7.6 percent after an upbeat outlook.

(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Toby Chopra)