US stocks rally as markets eye French elections

There are fears for the future of the eurozone if far-right candidate Marine Le Pen wins the French presidential election

Wall Street stocks scored large gains Thursday, with the Nasdaq finishing at a fresh record on revived hopes about US tax cuts under President Donald Trump and greater economic optimism following solid earnings.

US stocks have been pressured over the last month or so as the Trump economic agenda has languished and worries about Syria, North Korea and the French presidential election have come to the forefront.

But US stocks shook off those doubts. French stocks also scored strong gains, while markets in London, Frankfurt and Tokyo treaded water.

A batch of largely positive earnings reports and a more upbeat tone from executives boosted confidence in US growth.

"Not only have the earnings been good, but there's a good picture being painted by the CEOs," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

Analysts also pointed to remarks from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressing confidence in enacting tax cuts this year.

"What Mnuchin said is what the markets have been wanting to hear," Kinahan said. "Him giving that ounce of hope was great."

Kinahan said confidence action from Washington can be ephemeral and rumor-based, but that there remains an underlying sense that "something is going to get done" on taxes, the key to stock market rallies since Trump's election.

The Nasdaq finished at 5,916.78, up 0.9 percent, and about two points higher than the prior record set in March. Nasdaq companies with gains over one percent included Apple, Facebook, Netflix and Starbucks.

The French CAC also had a good day, winning 1.5 percent as a batch of polls showed centrist Emmanuel Macron in first place, increasing confidence he will make the run-off after Sunday's vote.

But equity markets in Tokyo, London and Frankfurt were flat ahead of Sunday.

"It was another jittery day for stock markets. Investors have been juggling multiple sets of corporate results while staying mindful of global geopolitics. That makes a strong directional move difficult," said Jasper Lawler of London Capital Group.

"The risks surrounding the first round of France's presidential election this Sunday have been keeping investors cautious," said LCG's Lawler.

- Key figures at 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 20,578.71 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.8 percent at 2,355.84 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.9 percent at 5,916.78 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,118.54 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.1 percent at 12,027.32 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.5 percent at 5,077.91 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 percent at 3,443.13

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 18,430.49 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.0 percent at 24,056.98 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,172.10 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0715 from $1.0708

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2812 from $1.2772

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.31 yen from 108.85 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 17 cents at $50.27 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP six cents at $52.99 per barrel