EUROPE MARKETS: French Stocks Rise Ahead Of European Peers Despite Election Worries

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Publicis, Pernod lead advance on CAC after earnings releases

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French stocks rose Thursday, performing better than broader European equities, as gains for Publicis Groupe SA and Pernod Ricard SA helped relieve pressure from concerns over the outcome of Sunday's presidential election vote.

In Paris, the CAC 40 moved up 0.5% to 5,029.68. That was better than the Stoxx Europe 600 , which trudged up 0.1% and has been slipping between small gains and losses. The pan-European index was held back by losses in the commodity sector, but consumer goods and financial shares were rising.

Investors were sifting through a new batch of earnings reports Thursday. Publicis (PUB.FR) was among the top share-price performers on the back of its financial results. Shares popped up 2.4%, on track for their best session since December, after the advertising heavyweight posted a smaller-than-expected decline in first-quarter sales (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/publicis-dragged-down-by-loss-of-us-accounts-2017-04-20-14854420).

At the same time, shares of French spirits group Pernod Ricard (RI.FR) climbed 1.6%. The producer of Absolut vodka and Martell cognac posted a 1% rise in third-quarter underlying sales.

A win for the CAC 40 on Thursday would be its second in a row, coming after five straight sessions of losses.

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French stocks have been under pressure on worries about the outcome of Sunday's first round of voting in the country's presidential election. Recent polling suggests a tight contest between the four main candidates, raising worries that the final two contenders going through to the second round of voting could be two euroskeptics: far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

"[With] four candidates polling around 20%, there is every reason for caution," said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, in a note.

"We're looking at contingency plans in the event of a Le Pen-Melenchon runoff as this would spark a big selloff in the euro and French government bonds, as well as bank stocks," he wrote.

Read: Here's how France's hotly contested election could spark market turmoil (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-frances-hotly-contested-election-could-spark-market-turmoil-2017-04-19)

Stock movers: ABB Ltd. (ABBN.EB) added 1.8% after the Swiss-based engineering and power grid company said net income rose on divestment of the company's high-voltage cable business. However, its first-quarter revenue fell slightly to $7.85 billion from a year ago.

Unilever (ULVR.LN) (ULVR.LN) shares picked up 1.1% after the consumer-product giant reported a rise in underlying sales for the first quarter (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/unilever-sales-rise-but-lag-in-europe-us-2017-04-20).

Nestlé SA] (NESN.EB) said first-quarter revenue was largely flat from a year earlier, but shares traded higher by 0.6%

Indexes: In Frankfurt, the DAX 30 was down fractionally at 12,011.12, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 0.2% to 7,102.43.

Read:Why the snap U.K. election is a 'game-changer' for the pound (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-the-pound-surged-to-10-week-high-after-may-called-snap-uk-election-2017-04-18)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2017 05:17 ET (09:17 GMT)