Despite the collective horror that the UK terror attack has rightly provoked, these events have not shown to have an impact on the markets. However, with speculation in regards to the near term interest rate narrative behind us for the next couple months and with Q4 earnings season wrapping up, investors will rotate their collective attention to themes that are decidedly more political and geopolitical in nature in coming weeks. If recent history is any indication, coming weeks and months will be best defined by hyperbole, drama and a well orchestrated storyline meant to instill a sense of panic for those looking to step outside conventional thinking. The two most recent examples being the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s insurgent Republican primary campaign and ultimate general election victory.
Along those lines and on the horizon, investors will gauge North Korea’s nuclear belligerence, France’s presidential elections and the ongoing national “conversation” about President Trump’s agenda, budget, cabinet, healthcare and his Supreme Court nominee. It will not be dull.
The first round of the French presidential elections will be held on April 23rd
. Not unlike the panic that set in over the Brexit referendum, France is in the midst of a turbulent debate, pitting nationalist Marine Le Pen against conservative Francois Fillon and upstart Emmanuel Macron. Reminiscent of Great Britain’s Nigel Farrage, Marine Le Pen is considered not only a nationalist but a genuine threat to the established order of the EU. Ms. Le Pen has steadily gained in popularity at the expense of her conservative counterparts and though her views are considered outside the mainstream, her message is continuing to gain support across France – including in Paris. Odds makers have Emmanuel Macron winning the national elections in a second round of voting. However, given the unexpected results of elections in the U.K., nothing is certain. In the unlikely event Marine Le Pen does win the presidency of France, the reverberations across Europe and the globe will be enormous; potentially more impactful than both Brexit and Donald Trump’s Presidential election – combined. Ms. Le Pen has made it clear that her first order of business will be to initiate steps to withdraw from the EU. France’s exit from the EU would be a death knell for the union. Without Great Britain and France, potentially, the EU will have lost two of its three largest economies. That potential eventuality in conjunction with the Trump Presidency will certainly mark the beginning of a new Western world order.
Some political economists in recent days have taken solace in the victory of Dutch incumbent Prime Minister Rutte’s victory in that country’s election earlier this month. The thinking being that the Dutch election results will likely be closely replicated in France’s upcoming elections. However, though incumbent Prime Minister Rutte and his VVD party did win the elections as expected, the VVD party (conservatives) lost meaningful governance ground in parliament to G. Wilder’s (PVV party) and the Green-Leftist Party. As a result of the elections, and in many respects, though the incumbent party has remained in power it will now be forced to contend with a far more dysfunctional coalition in its efforts to govern. It is not a clear-cut victory for the establishment – not by a long shot. In fact, I would suggest that it speaks to a highly turbulent and bitter fight ahead for the French candidates pursuing the presidential office.