* French election graphic tmsnrt.rs/2jLwO20
By Vikram Subhedar
LONDON, April 20 World stocks eked out small
gains on Thursday as investors resisted risky bets ahead of the
first round of the French presidential election over the
Oil prices, which fell sharply on Wednesday on supply news,
regained some of their losses.
In general, markets cautiously stuck to well-worn trading
ranges buffeted by concern over political risks and continued
tensions over North Korea.
Europe's STOXX 600 rose 0.1 percent bolstered by
strong sales reported by consumer sector bellwether Unilever
. The FTSE 100, which has slid into negative
territory for the year, was little changed.
In Asian hours, Japanese stocks failed to hold on
to slim gains and closed flat on the day.
MSCI's world stock index was up 0.13
"Given the binary risk of the French presidential elections
and geopolitical concerns over North Korea, investors are
staying on the sidelines," said Fan Cheuk Wan, head of
investment strategy and advisory, Asia, at HSBC Private Banking.
A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and questions
about whether the Trump administration can push through tax cuts
have dented some of the enthusiasm for risky assets in recent
A sharp dip to three-week lows in oil prices overnight was
the latest sign of an unwind in the global reflation trade.
Crude oil clawed back some of the loss but concerns about a
supply glut capped the rebound.
"Rising U.S. oil inventory data is now starting to impact
the market's aggressive long position in crude," said analysts
at Morgan Stanley in a note to clients.
Brent crude futures were up 0.5 percent to $53.22 a
barrel after sliding more than 3 percent in the previous
session. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were
up 0.4 percent.
In currency markets, the euro rose 0.4 percent to a
three-week high of $1.0748 against the dollar. The greenback was
0.2 percent weaker against a basket of major currencies.
Centrist Emmanuel Macron held on to his lead as favourite to
emerge as the eventual victor in the French presidential
election, a closely watched poll showed, although it indicated
that the outcome of the first round of voting on Sunday was too
close to call.
Millions of French voters remain undecided, making this the
least predictable vote in France in decades, and raising fears
of a potential surprise result that could spread turmoil in
France's borrowing costs nudged down on Thursday before a
bond auction that is likely to be watched more closely than
usual, coming just ahead of Sunday's presidential election.
French bonds have come under heavy selling pressure this
year as an unpredictable election race unfolded, with strong
support for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and the far-left's
Jean-Luc Melenchon, both anti-euro, alarming investors.
Most other euro zone bond yields were little changed on the
(Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee in HONG KONG Editing
by Jeremy Gaunt)