The euro touched six-months highs on Friday but was unable to break above $1.10 before this weekend’s final round of the French presidential election, while a fall in oil prices drove the Australian dollar and Canadian dollar to new lows. Expectations that centrist Emmanuel Macron will become France’s next president and see off far-right candidate Marine Le Pen have underpinned gains for the euro of nearly 2.5 percent over the past two weeks.
The single currency touched a six-month high of $1.0990 in early morning trade in Europe as Macron extended his lead in the polls over Le Pen, who has said she would withdraw France from the euro. It later shed some of those gains to trade 0.1 percent lower at $1.0968, still up 0.8 percent for the week. An Elabe poll overnight showed Macron extending his lead to 24 percentage points, up three points compared to the equivalent previous poll.
Valentin Marinov, head of G10 FX strategy at Credit Agricole in London said the easing of political risk in Europe, should Macron win, could support the euro going forward. A Macron win, he said, “will allow investors to refocus their attention on the rather resilient euro zone fundamentals at the moment, the improving growth outlook picture as a whole and indeed the fact that the European Central Bank will take more steps ever closer to tapering its quantative easing purchases.”
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The Canadian dollar set a 14-month low and the Australian dollar hit a four-month trough on a drop in oil prices, while the safe haven yen edged higher as risk sentiment wavered. The loonie slipped to C$1.3793 per U.S. dollar at one point, its weakest level since late February 2016. It was last down 0.2 percent at C$1.3775.
The Australian dollar slid to $0.7368 at one point, its lowest level since Jan. 11, last trading at $0.7391, down 0.2 percent on the day. Commodity-linked currencies took their cues from a slide in oil prices, said Stephen Innes, a senior trader for FX broker OANDA in Singapore.
“I think that’s really driving it… It’s just a direct correlation with oil prices and a little bit of risk aversion coming into the dollar/yen,” Innes said. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures slid 3 percent on the day. The dollar fell 0.2 percent against the yen to 112.27 , pulling away from a seven-week high of 113.045 yen set on Thursday.
Investors are awaiting Friday’s U.S. non-farm payrolls report for additional insight into the Federal Reserve’s likely interest rate trajectory through the end of the year. Attention will also be on officials including Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, who are due to speak on Friday.
The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and downplayed weak first-quarter economic growth, bolstering market expectations for the central bank to raise interest rates in June.
(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Tokyo Markets Team; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)