Euro Falls as Markets Brace for French Post-election Gridlock

A participant holds a French flag during an election night rally following the first results of the second round of France's legislative election at Place de la Republique in Paris on July 7, 2024. (AFP)
A participant holds a French flag during an election night rally following the first results of the second round of France's legislative election at Place de la Republique in Paris on July 7, 2024. (AFP)
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Euro Falls as Markets Brace for French Post-election Gridlock

A participant holds a French flag during an election night rally following the first results of the second round of France's legislative election at Place de la Republique in Paris on July 7, 2024. (AFP)
A participant holds a French flag during an election night rally following the first results of the second round of France's legislative election at Place de la Republique in Paris on July 7, 2024. (AFP)

The euro slipped on Sunday after projections from France's election pointed to a hung parliament and an unexpectedly strong showing for the left-wing New Popular Front, casting fresh uncertainty over markets and setting the stage for further volatility ahead.

Analysts said markets would likely be relieved that Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) was forecast to come third after last week's first-round victory.

Yet investors also have concerns that the French left’s plans could unwind many of President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-market reforms. And they believe political gridlock could end attempts to rein in France's debt, which stood at 110.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023.

The euro fell 0.2% to $1.081 as the week’s trading got underway. It had climbed last week as opinion polls suggested a hung parliament was likely, assuaging fears of a far-right victory, after dropping sharply - along with stocks and bonds - when Macron called the elections in early June.

"It looks like the anti-far right parties really got a lot of support," said Simon Harvey, head of FX analysis at Monex Europe.

"But fundamentally from a market perspective, there’s no difference in terms of the outcome. There’s really going to be a vacuum when it comes to France’s legislative ability."

Harvey added: "The bond market is going to be the real place to look at. There might be a bit of a gap lower in French bonds (prices)."

Trading in French bonds and stocks will begin on Monday morning in Europe.

The leftist alliance, which gathers the hard left, the Socialists and Greens, was forecast to win between 172 and 215 seats out of 577, according to pollsters' projections based on early results from a sample of polling stations.

Macron’s centrist alliance was projected to win 150-180 seats, with the RN seen getting 115 to 155 seats.

Analysts said a period of volatility and uncertainty was expected to continue as investors now assess what form the parliament will take, and how many, if any, of its policies the leftist alliance will be able to implement.

The New Popular Front alliance says its first moves would include a 10% civil servant pay hike, providing free school lunches, supplies and transport while raising housing subsidies by 10%.

"The economic program of the left is in many ways much more problematic than that of the right, and while the left will not be able to govern on their own, the outlook for French public finances deteriorates further with these results," said Nordea chief market analyst Jan von Gerich.

JITTERY MARKETS

Markets tumbled after Macron gambled in June by calling a parliamentary election following a trouncing at the hands of the RN in European Parliament elections - as investors worried an RN victory could install a prime minister intent on a high-spending, France-first agenda that would exacerbate a large debt pile and shake relations with Europe.

The risk premium investors demand to hold the country's debt soared to its highest level since the euro zone crisis in 2012. French stocks, led by banks, dropped as investors worried about their holdings of government debt, new regulation and economic uncertainty in the euro area's second biggest economy.

Yet equities, bonds and the euro all recovered somewhat last week as polls showed a hung parliament was the most likely outcome as the left wing and centrist parties struck deals to give anti-RN candidates a better chance.

The exact make-up of the next parliament remains uncertain, as does the next prime minister. Gabriel Attal said he would hand his resignation to Macron on Monday.

"It’s going to be very hard to actually go ahead and pass any policy and bring about any progressive reforms because each party’s vote is split and no one has an absolute majority," said Aneeka Gupta, director of macroeconomic research at WisdomTree.

Yet she added: "I think the markets will be happy we’re avoiding this extreme situation with the far right."



New Legislation Facilitates Investment in Saudi Tourism Sector

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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New Legislation Facilitates Investment in Saudi Tourism Sector

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khatib said, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, that work is underway on new regulations and legislation that will facilitate the investment process in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is witnessing a major transformation in the tourism sector after it enacted and developed a number of regulations and launched mega projects that allowed the country to attract more than 100 million visitors last year, the target initially set for 2030.
During a press conference on Wednesday at the Abu Faraj heritage palaces in Al-Aziza, west of the city of Abha in the southern Aseer region, Al-Khatib revealed the ministry’s moves to provide appropriate long-term funding at a competitive cost in order to encourage investment in the Saudi tourism system.
In his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the minister pointed to the most prominent achievements in the sector, revealing that the Kingdom received 60 million visitors during the first half of 2024, with spending amounting to SAR 143 billion ($38.1 billion), recording about 10 percent growth in the number of tourists and spending.
He added that by the end of the first half of this year, the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product had reached 5 percent, and was moving steadily toward achieving 10 percent, which is equivalent to SAR 600-700 billion of tourism income.
Moreover, Al-Khatib also spoke about the launch of the Bachelor of International Hospitality Management program, a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism, King Khalid University, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
He noted that a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Ministry of Tourism and the Colleges of Excellence Company, with the aim of developing human capabilities and expanding international specialized technical colleges and strategic partnership institutes in the field of tourism and hospitality.
Al-Khateeb said 10,000 training opportunities both inside and outside the Kingdom would be allocated to those working in the Aseer region’s tourism sector.
The National Tourism Strategy aims to reach over 150 million local and international tourists by 2030. In 2023, it reached 109 million.
The minister added: “The Tourism Development Fund plays an important role in providing financing, allocating SAR 7.4 billion to enable over 100 tourism projects around the Kingdom with a value exceeding SAR 35 billion.”
He pointed out that the fund financed 10 major projects in the Aseer region, ranging from international hotels to multi-use projects with a value exceeding one billion riyals. International hotel brands included: InterContinental Residence in Abha, DoubleTree in Khamis Mushait Governorate, and Khayal Walk Boulevard.