Euro on defensive as French presidential election tests investor nerves

Euro currency

The euro was on the defensive and is under pressure from fears that the French Presidential election could upset the status quo, as rising anti-establishment sentiment surfaced after last year's Brexit and the U.S. election.

The premium that investors demand to hold French bonds instead of German debt rose to its highest since late 2012 after a poll showed Right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen narrowing the gap with more centrist opponents.

The euro traded at $1.0614, having moved little on Monday due in part to a holiday out U.S. investors. It has fallen 1.75 percent so far this month.

The first round of the French Presidential election is scheduled on April 23, with the run-off between the top two contenders on May 7.

The euro has been helped by the lack of progress between Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon and hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in talks on cooperation.

Fears that cooperation on the left could lead to a run-off between either Hamon or Melenchon and Le Pen, eliminating three main moderate candidates, have dogged the euro since Friday when the two leftists said they were discussing such cooperation.

Another comfort for the euro came from Brussels, where Greece and its international lenders agreed to let experts work out new reforms to Greek pensions, income tax and the labor market that would allow Athens to eventually qualify for more cheap loans.

Greece needs a new tranche of financial aid under its 86 billion euro bailout by the third quarter of the year to meet debt repayments, but agreeing on a fresh aid could prove difficult as not only France but also Germany and possibly Italy face elections later this year.

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