European stocks climb after French presidential debate

Seoul's KOSPI closed at a record high thanks to improving corporate results, foreign buying and a surge in heavyweight Samsung Electronics

European stock markets rose Thursday as French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron was viewed as the winner of a crunch election debate ahead of Sunday's run-off vote.

US stocks finished little changed ahead of Friday's closely-watched jobs report for April.

The French market outperformed its European counterparts, with the Paris CAC 40 fizzing 1.4 percent higher to reach levels not seen since 2008, as traders digested Wednesday night's debate between Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 meanwhile climbed 1.0 percent to a new record close, ending the first time above 12,600 points at 12,647.78.

A drop in oil and metals prices penalized London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which closed with a gain of 0.2 percent.

"European assets are in high demand... with the euro moving back above $1.09 and the DAX at an all-time high, as Emmanuel Macron was deemed to have trounced his rival in last night's debate," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG traders.

The centrist Macron and anti-EU Le Pen clashed over terrorism, the economy and Europe in a bad-tempered TV debate that laid bare their profoundly different visions for the country.

The duel ahead of Sunday's election was billed as a confrontation between Macron's call for openness and pro-market reforms and Le Pen's France-first nationalism.

"It’s been a day of fairly decent earnings updates, though it has been helped by the failure of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to lay a glove on Emmanuel Macron in last night’s final presidential debate, ahead of this weekend’s final vote," said analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

- Trump gets win -

In the US, analysts said investors were heartened by a narrow vote by the House of Representatives in favor of Trump's plan for dismantling much of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

But the vote had little effect on stocks because passage had been expected and the proposal faces a long road to passage in the divided Senate.

Health care reform is "important," but "they've still got to grind through the next step," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

Meanwhile, the oil prices slumped to the lowest levels since OPEC and Russia agreed in November to cut back production in a bid to raise prices.

"We just keep falling and trying to find a bottom," said Gene McGillian of Tradition Energy. In spite the agreement to limit output, "we have not seen a significant improvement of global inventories," McGillian said.

On the corporate front, shares in HSBC topped the FTSE 100 leader board, jumping 2.9 percent after the banking titan posted a rise in pre-tax profits, excluding one-off charges.

In Frankfurt, Adidas climbed 0.8 percent as the German sporting goods maker voiced confidence over meeting its objectives for the year, after a huge leap in quarterly profits.

In the US, Tesla Motors lost 5.0 percent as it reported a net loss of $330 million in the first quarter, far wider than the $121 million deficit a year earlier.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 20,951.47 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.1 percent at 2,389.52 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.1 percent at 6,075.34 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,248.10 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.0 percent at 12,647.78 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.4 percent at 5,372.42 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.0 percent at 3,623.66

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 24,683.88 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,127.37 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0983 from $1.0887 at 2100 GMT Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2923 from $1.2873

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.39 yen from 112.67 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN $2.41 at $48.38 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN $2.30 at $45.52 per barrel

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