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French equities surged on Monday as investors bet that centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron would beat Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent, in a run-off for the French presidency on May 7. The euro was also boosted in what analysts said was a “relief rally” as the threat of a Eurosceptic leader running the eurozone’s second-largest economy receded.
The result of the first round was a profound shock to the political system, writes Tony Barber. “For the first time in almost 60 years, neither of the two mainstream parties of the left and right has a candidate in the knockout round of a presidential election.” French voters now face a fortnight of highly-charged campaigning during which they will be asked to choose between two radically different visions of France. The FT’s poll tracker shows that Mr Macron is expected to win the second round, and currently has the support of 64 per cent of voters, compared with Ms Le Pen’s 37 per cent. But two weeks is a long time in politics. (FT)
In the news
Korean tensions stoked Chinese president Xi Jinping has called for restraint after discussing the North Korea crisis in a phone call with Donald Trump, as a US aircraft carrier strike group headed towards Korean waters. The US and its allies are urging China to use its trade ties to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Satellite images of a North Korean nuclear site suggest that workers have stopped playing volleyball, possibly to resume preparations for a test. (Reuters, FT, NYT, BBC)
Toshiba split The Japanese conglomerate has announced it will split its four main businesses into separate wholly-owned subsidiaries as it scrambles to minimise the damage of its nuclear woes in the US. But it is unclear whether the split can ringfence the parent company. (NAR, FT)
How much for heels? Shoemaker and luxury fashion label Jimmy Choo has put itself up for sale. The company’s shares have risen 25 per cent over the past year, valuing the company at £682m. So far there have been no offers. (FT)
1MDB, Abu Dhabi sovereign fund agreement The Malaysian state investment fund will pay $1.2bn to settle part of its dispute with the Gulf fund. The deal helps to avoid potentially embarrassing arbitration proceedings related to billions of dollars that were allegedly misappropriated by a conspiracy of former executives and advisers to both funds. (WSJ)
Chinese develop a taste for avocados A burgeoning health-conscious middle class in China is behind soaring demand for “butter fruit” — unheard of a few years ago — the star performer in the imported fruit market. (FT)
It’s a big day for
UK politicians hitting the campaign trail With 45 days to go before the snap UK general election, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is advertising her “strong and stable leadership”. Meanwhile, former Labour party leader Tony Blair has already pulled the ground from under his successor, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a call for voters to back anti-Brexit candidates — even if they are not Labour.
Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.
Food for thought
Beware the over confidence of age Being post-fear makes life more comfortable but also more dangerous, because fear fends off disaster. In her mid-50s Lucy Kellaway discovers a painful lesson — how hard it is to learn from past mistakes. (FT)
Escaping Trump by running into the arms of Trudeau With the snow starting to thaw, the number of people attempting to cross the US-Canada border, the longest undefended frontier in the world, is set to soar. The influx is causing resentment. Emerson in Manitoba is an example of a sleepy border town where refugees, caked in snow and dirt, knock on doors in the dead of night. (FT)
Telling the truth in Tunisia The only Arab country to truly embrace change after the 2011 uprisings, Tunisia is undergoing a painful national therapy as torture victims tell their stories to the country’s Truth and Dignity Commission. (NYT)
Why can’t Africa’s slums be cleared? Lack of affordable housing close to jobs blights African countries, where more than 200m people live in slums. Their existence points to the dysfunction and lack of governance that blights the continent’s cities. (Economist)
The yawning gender pay gap British companies are beginning to publish pay by gender, ahead of a law requiring all companies to publish the difference between the average and median hourly pay rates for male and female employees by April 2018. So far, the reports reveal pay gaps at twice the national average. (Bloomberg)
Video of the day
Week ahead ECB rates meeting, French and UK elections impact On the heels of the French election, eyes will turn to the ramifications of the UK election on the EU’s negotiation plans for Brexit and the European Central Bank rates meeting, as well as first-quarter results from Alphabet/Google, Microsoft and Intel (FT).